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A fantastically funny family show

Midsummer Mechanicals | Globe 2022

Midsummer Mechanicals | Globe 2022For families considering a theatre trip in the school holidays, Shakespeare's Globe is unlikely to be the first venue that springs to mind.

Whether you're bored by the Bard or a dedicated groundling, taking children to see Shakespeare is a daunting prospect. But be not afeard; for this summer the Globe (in a co-production with Splendid Productions) premieres its first full-scale production for families. And it's an absolute dream.

Written by Kerry Frampton and Ben Hales, Midsummer Mechanicals is a fantastically funny follow-up to A Midsummer Night's Dream, focusing on Peter Quince's troupe of actors as they attempt to recapture the success of their hit play within a play, Pyramus and Thisbe. And if that's all Greek to you, it doesn't matter one bit. Accessible, unpretentious and downright daft, it's the perfect introduction to Shakespeare.

The play picks up a year after A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Peter Quince (Jamal Franklin) and Nick Bottom (Kerry Frampton) preparing for the premiere of "The Adventures of the Weaver and the Fairy Queen". With only 45 minutes until the Duke and Duchess arrive, Quince and Bottom are the only members of the Mechanicals present at the playhouse.

Francis Flute is late, Robin Starveling's away on important tailoring business, and Snug's not turned up (but he was a terrible lion last year so they're better off without him). Nobody knows where Tom Snout is but his wife, Patience (Melody Brown) is more than happy to step in.

When the fabulously flamboyant Francis Flute (Sam Glen) eventually arrives, he turns out to have grown rather a lot in the last year and is not too keen on playing the Fairy Queen. There's also the small matter of an unwritten ending to resolve but all Bottom wants to do is endlessly rehearse the "Song of Togetherness" (which is guaranteed to be stuck in your head afterwards). With an ever-dwindling list of players, and the Duke and Duchess taking their seats, there's nothing left to do but cast the audience as the weather, while the aptly named Patience steps in to play the other roles (with gusto, if not necessarily adherence to the script).

Running at around two hours (with a 15 minute interval), the pacing is perfect and holds the attention of the young audience throughout. It works brilliantly having Act 1 focus on rehearsals with the play itself taking place in Act 2 (where things get sillier still). By this stage, the audience is well warmed up and often spontaneously gets involved as the chaos unfolds. From the witty Weaver's song to a side-splittingly funny sequence involving a banana skin, audience-propelled snowballs, and a bear chase, the play within a play is a masterclass in comedy.

The Mechanicals may not have a hit on their hands but The Globe and Splendid Productions certainly do. Midsummer Mechanicals is a well-written piece that strips away the complexity but retains the humour of one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies. It's high-energy entertainment, performed by a talented foursome who masterfully engage the audience, resulting in a raucous Shakespearean-style atmosphere.

It's aimed at ages 5 to 12, making it a great option for families with big age gaps between siblings. In fact, it's the sort of joyful show which everyone should experience so take your own kids, borrow someone else's or just channel your inner child and head along to the Globe this summer for a couple of hours of splendidly silly stuff.

Midsummer Mechanicals is at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe until 21 August

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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Whether you’re bored by the Bard or a dedicated groundling, taking children to see Shakespeare is a daunting prospect. But be not afeard; for this summer the Globe premieres its first full-scale production for families. And it’s an absolute dream.