This year, Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary has been marked and celebrated in many ways, from various productions being performed at some of the country’s leading theatres to the BBC ﬁlming their own versions of some of the classics. However, I cannot think of any event that will bear any similarities to The Donkey Show at Proud Camden this summer.
Adapted from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Donkey Show is described as a ‘Midsummer’s Night Disco,’ celebrating the music of disco and set in a club environment. Having said this, if someone had told me that this was based on A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the only hint I would get is the name of the club setting, ‘Club Oberon’. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. It’s the fact that as the show is an immersive experience with no seating, the music literally sweeps you off your feet and gets you dancing. Because of that, at times you forget there’s an actual story going on as you’re just happy enough moving along to some gargantuan dance classics, from I Will Survive and We Are Family, to You Sexy Thing and Car Wash (thankfully the Rose Royce version, and not the one featuring Missy Elliott).
As this is an immersive experience, the ﬂow of the story can be quite bumpy at the times with the music being so loud, thus making some of the action and humour not have the same impact as I’d like it to have whilst trying to ﬁnd where the actors have next run off to around the space. Nonetheless, there are some performances which keep the energy of the production always alive. Bronté Barbé, as the geeky Helen, was a delight to watch with her larger-than-life characterisation and facial expressions, and her vocal projection and tone always on top of the loud volume of the music. The enthusiastic Samuel Fogell, as DJ Hernando, stood out in the ensemble with a natural charisma in getting people to dance on stage with him. But the biggest compliment goes to James Gillan as the ringleader of this circus, Lady Puck. A big and distinct voice as well as a seriously great sense of humour, I look forward to see what’s next for him after the run.
This is certainly an innovative event in celebration of Shakespeare 400. With the music loud and the lights bright, it reminds you of how brilliant the disco era truly was rather than Shakespeare’s storytelling. It’s a full blown party essentially, but a great night out nonetheless.
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Jane Hobson