BWW Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream seems to be this season's go-to comedy and, from Nicholas Hytner's lightly immersive offering at the Bridge Theatre to the smaller productions dotted around London, it's delighting audiences young and old.
The Globe is joining in the summer fun with their own contribution: an eccentric, unashamedly over-the-top and amusing show directed by Sean Holmes. He sets the treasured tale of squabbling lovers, misbehaving fairies and exacting monarchs as a scene straight out of a Mardi Gras parade, with jazz music composed by Jim Fortune and played by the Hackney Colliery Band accompanying the play in a flurry of brass delight.
Holmes leaves the stage rather bare, opting to focus the attention on designer Jean Chan and costume supervisor Lydia Hardiman's contributions. From fairies that look like carnivalesque Minions and a Bottom translated into a colourful piñata to deconstructed period garments, their creations are a feast for the eyes.
Peter Bourke and Victoria Elliott lead the silly and good-hearted piece of theatre as Theseus/Oberon and Hippolita/Titania. Bourke subtly but strongly mocks both Elliott's Hippolita and Titania, but, undeterred, she holds her own, putting a joyously comedic spin on her storyline and keeping the audience tightly on her side. Ciáran O'Brien (Demetrius), Faith Omole (Hermia), Ekow Quartey (Lysander), and Amanda Wilkin (Helena) wrangle with blind and orchestrated love, playing the liaisons for laughs through well-constructed comic timing.
The Rude Mechanicals are managed by a fierce and oh-so-stylish Nadine Higgin, who moonlights as Egeus (in a stunning black and white ensemble deigned with power and command in mind). Jocelyn Jee Esien is Bottom, the bubbly and over-enthusiastic diva of the company. Dressed in mock-Versace and sporting pink hair, she galavants around the space humouring the crowd and keeping her fellow tradesmen in check.
Holmes makes the most of the recurring double-casting instances and has them play into the comedy. This climaxes with the fragmentation of the character of Puck: the director has multiple actors (with Billy Seymour standing out particularly) taking over and swarming the stage with apt T-shirts to set the sprite (or sprites?) apart from the rest of the cast, leading to a comical confusion that tickles the audience.
The jubilant vibe goes along perfectly well with Shakespeare's text, which holds its original beauty even with some small updates and fitting modern references. An eye-catching production, however, some dubious elements don't fit the context, and others take the playful atmosphere to inappropriate areas.
The latter criticism is mainly due to awkward sexual innuendos that become too on the nose and crass when overplayed (Titania appears to enjoy playing the flute that descends between Bottom's legs quite a lot) and that remove the comedy from the whimsical and lighthearted climate of the festive universe.
All in all, it's not without fault, but remains a kooky addition to London's current choice of Dreams. It's bizarre, funny and weird all in the right places, it sports spot-on comical performances, and the customary impressive natural setting of the Globe only adds to the cornucopia of goods.
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton