Barbican Theatre, London – 17-21 May 2016
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – 15 June-16 July 2016
With a fascinating take on 1940s meeting a surreal and magical world, Erica Whyman has directed a beautiful, melodic and hilarious piece of theatre. This has been by far my favourite production of Shakespeare’s tale of four lovers who’s lives are meddled with due to the mischief and desires of the fairy world.
This play has been dubbed ‘A Play for the Nation’, and with children from various schools joining each performance and performers from fourteen amateur theatre groups each taking on the roles of the mechanicals (including Bottom), this is a collaborative effort, indeed.
The set displayed a great deal of realism with a theatrical backdrop used, whereas he forest where love and mischief reigns supreme displayed an overriding theme of red symbolism. This worked well, especially coupled with the inclusion of the piano centre-piece (where Titania, and later, Bottom take their rest). Music, dance and frivolity is very much a part of the piece and it lends itself perfectly.
Oberon the Fairy King and Titania the Fairy Queen are played with subtlety yet grace and gentility by Chu Omambala and Ayesha Dharker. Their chemistry is poignant and bold, excellent chemistry is also noted between Oberon and Puck, who is the cheeky elf who enjoys wreaking havoc. Lucy Ellinson plays the role and she was outstanding, facial features that spoke a thousand words and hilarious audience interaction. The four lovers, Lysander (Jack Holden), Demetrius (Chris Nayak), Hermia (Mercy Ojelade) and Helena (Laura Riseborough) were superbly cast and each were notable for comic timing which moved appropriately to emotionally charged performances. Riseborough appeared to use her height to achieve some comic effect, whether it was deliberate or not I’m unsure, but it worked! Each actor brought out nuances that highlighted their differences and vulnerabilities simultaneously.
A huge pat on the back must go to The Bear Pit amateur theatre group who played the mechanicals. There was an invisible divide between professional and amateur performers, David Mears as Bottom was a joy to watch, this must surely be a role that he was always meant to play.
This is a must-see and comes highly recommended as a show to beg, steal or borrow ticket for, this year.
The production is going on a UK tour before finishing back at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in July. Tickets for all performances can be purchased here and further details can also be found: https://www.rsc.org.uk/a-midsummer-nights-dream/the-plot