Wilton’s Music Hall, London – until 14 July 2018
A sparse set made up of a split-level stage and a large paper suspended lamp are what greets us as we take our seats for this performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This sparse staging plays well with the venue itself, as the light dims, the shadows cast on the rough walls become more dreamlike. The lamp turns from sun to moon and back as the play goes on, and this clever use of light guides us through the progress of what can be a confusing production of a confusing play.
It is not uncommon for players to play more than one character when putting on ‘The Dream’. It works for squeezed theatre budgets, but also helps show the fact that the fairie world is but a shadow of our own. But to do it well, it needs to be clear when the actors transition from character to character. This is sometimes done with acrobatics, but that doesn’t seem to be applied consistently. For me, who has seen countless productions, that is fine. For my neighbour encountering Shakespeare for the first time, he was left stumped and frustrated.
That’s a shame because there is a lot elsewhere to admire in the performances. I was particularly impressed by Laura Evelyn who gives a more comical and spirited performance as Helena (as well as Moth/Snug) than is often afforded that character and works really well. I also enjoyed Tamarin McGinley’s sensuous portrayal of Titania. The 70s glam look given her contrasts somewhat oddly with the others, but works to feed into her performance as the queen of Studio 54.
‘Dream’ has elements of romance and of comedy, and each production makes a choice which they highlight. This leans into the comedic element far more strongly than the romance. Christopher Hughes brings the house down as Bottom and the mime elements work the strongest when the rest of the cast is brought to bear as his Ass mask. The final act – dominated as it is by the play within the play – is a scream, and leaves a sense of fun where the romances might have fallen somewhat flat on their own.
This was an enjoyable production for those who know the play. A light and frothy interpretation heavy on the laughs, less so on the love.
Tickets from £12.50. The production is on until 14 July https://www.wiltons.org.uk/whatson/436-a-midsummer-night-s-dream-