BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
The celebrations for the marriage between Theseus of Athens and his new slave bride Hippolyta are in full swing with techno music, dances, and lots of straight vodka. Lysander and Hermia are in love but her father Egeus wants her married to Demetrius, the focus of Helena's desire. Fairy royal couple Titania and Oberon have become estranged because of her disobedience. While the figures try to resolve their differences, the sun sets on Regent's Park in a jubilation of red and yellow while the Rude Mechanicals rehearse their play.
Sounds and shadows haunt Dominic Hill's re-imagination of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Shakespeare's midnight revels take on a suggestively eerie quality in his production. The director gives it a nightmarish vibe transforming the fairies into gloomy, hunched creatures camouflaged by black shrubs who earn Oberon the title of "King of shadows" in Rachel Canning's design.
Puck becomes an impish trickster dressed in a glitzy tuxedo with Myra McFayden, who looks up at the King with adoring eyes and becomes his not-so-metaphoric puppet and runs around pursuing mischief. The young lovers take a step back from the frontline here, with Oberon and Titania's relationship being given more breath and expression at the hands of Kieran Hill and Amber James.
The four lovers pursue each other with Remy Beasley leading the way as Helena. The actress becomes Demetrius's (Pierro Niel-Mee) biggest stan, delivering a frenzied performance that beams among the enchanted passion of her fellow mortals and the unperturbed sophistication of the surrounding supernatural cast.
Puppetry and stage trickery permeate the show. The open air illusions play into the bewitchment that Hill sets off from the very start and transport the audience to a parallel universe where dreams aren't always pleasant and disquieting visions come to life.
He tickles the crowd's imagination with spirited apparitions giving them pause to laugh with Susan Wokoma's enthusiastic Bottom and her band of Rude Mechanicals and squabbling couples. He balances the comic angle in the show with a recurring, ghostly and mystical thread that runs through it and makes the world set off by the director gothic yet idyllic in its portrayal.
London is being spoilt for choice at the moment, with major productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream playing both The Globe and the Bridge, but Hill's keeps the intrinsic natural essence of the piece tightly by his side.
His contribution to the spread of Dream in the city is sublime in its delivery. All its elements click together to offer a marvellous spectacle of refined emotions and tasteful comedy within an arcane universe that is as alluring as it is unsettling.
Photo credit: Jane Hobson