REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Open Air Theatre) ★★★★★

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” An apt line for today’s world, as we weave through a web of Trump, Brexit and foolish decisions. And in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is plenty of silliness as people struggle with mistaken identity, unrequited love and disrespectful audiences.

One of the reasons that the ‘Dream’ is one of my favourite plays, is its adaptability. I have seen countless versions of the play – each unique and marvellous in its own way. It transcends the eras, working in a modern setting as well as in the early 20th century, with faeries portrayed as beasts, steam punk teens, puppets…

But this modern production took me by surprise. It is perfectly crafted in each element, mesmerising to the last. There is something magical about the Open Air Theatre, but unlike the previous version a few years ago, this works better with the gradually fading summer sun. In places it is ethereal and beautiful, while at times it is chilling and ugly. The set is simple, but effective; Ben Ormerod’s lighting works well against the backdrop to provide the perfect amount of emphasis and drama. Sound effects are provided by cast members and are haunting and other worldly.

The cast is exceptional. The four lovers are delightful, from Remy Beasley’s sulky and downtrodden (but determined) Helena to Pierro Niel-Mee’s unfeeling and temperamental Demetrius. Amber James is fantastic as Titania, gracious and majestic, yet also maternal and craving affection, as we mere mortals do.

Myra McFadyen brings a new quirkiness to the role of Puck and her interpretation is excellent. The connection with Oberon (Kieran Hill) and her interaction with other cast members work well and she embodies the mischievous sprite-like creature.

The players’ performance is the best I have ever seen and the costumes for their play within a play are perfect. Susan Wokoma makes an excellent Bottom, arrogant and playful, while Gareth Snook has nailed the despairing ‘Am-Dram director’.

The overall performance feels so natural and it is testament to Dominic Hill’s direction how well-executed it is. The addition of little asides and modern language amongst the Shakespeare complement the effect of the script and transpose the Bard’s words to the 21st century.

This is the best interpretation I have ever seen and the combination of sound, stage and script provide a beautifully crafted piece of theatre that proves that Shakespeare can and will continue to delight modern audiences for the foreseeable future.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes


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