REVIEW: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Lyric Hammersmith)
As a theatre nerd I’ll admit I’ve seen a fair few productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From ethereal forests to derelict junk yards, there are hundreds of ways to interpret Shakespeare’s arguably funniest play. Therefore, when you come across a production like Filter & the Lyric Hammersmith’s sublimely ridiculous interpretation it’s a bit of a treat.
An interesting adaptation, the company take Shakespeare’s original text and mix it in with some modern language, but keep the original flavour of the characters so that their speech is almost ‘updated’. This technique is mainly used in the mechanical scenes and manages to add another layer of Meta theatre to hilarious effect. For example, the oafish bottom becomes a daft prat in a parka jacket who brings his shopping to the theatre, which freshens up the character and makes it much more accessible. This may also have something to do with Andrew Buckley’s on-point comic timing.
In fact, the whole production feels fresh and brand-spanking new. The cast’s energy knows no bounds and Sean Holmes & Stef O’Driscoll’s direction has their actors literally bursting through the walls and delving into a smashed up food fight. Is it traditional? Not particularly, but by bursting to the seams with fun, the company have managed to bottle the raucous excitement of Shakespeare’s original text and mix it with fizz and pop.
There are no weak links in this production and the cast bounce well off of each other but there are a couple of standout performances. Jonathan Broadbent is hilarious as a petulant King of the Geeks style Oberon, outlandishly flying across the stage one minute and grasping for his inhaler the next. As his right-hand sprite, Ferdy Roberts gives a truly unique interpretation of the mischievous Puck.
Completely eschewing the character’s original mischievousness, Roberts is styled as a grumpy theatre technician, gruffly doing Oberon’s biding with only a gallon of attitude. It’s a refreshing interpretation of the characters which makes the play seem shiny and new again.
While the occasional musical elements didn’t quite work for me, this is a sterling production of a classic play. Clearly geared slightly more towards a youthful audience, Filter Theatre Company manages to hook in the teenagers in the audience, while still titillating the grannies. It’s as if they took Shakespeare and cranked the fun up to 11.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Photo: Tristram Kenton