This one performance only reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream features lively performances – but feels slightly lacking in the magic.
It has to be said it can’t be easy to produce an engaging Shakespeare production online to entertain audiences – particularly with the unpredictability of technology and internet connections to keep the play flowing smoothly. So it is very much to the credit of all those involved that this live-streamed reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was able to maintain its consistency in style and tone.
Directed by Caron Hall, this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is filled with joyful performances which are filled with brilliant characterisations that would be lovely to see live on stage in a full scale production. In particular, Tim Fitzhigham as Flute provides a performance that really made me smile – suitably flamboyant but never over the top. Elsewhere, I also appreciated the strength of Máiréad Tyers’ characterisation of Hermia – suitably passionate and earnest, Dan Stevens is mischievous as the jelous Oberon and Rebecca Hall is a calming presence as Hippolyta. It is certainly a cast that would be worth catching together on stage.
Of course, while the performances are excellent – it can be difficult to get a real sense of the magic and fantasy elements of the story through Zoom, while it feels as though some of the chaos as the various couples chase each other around the forest is also lost so it can make it difficult to concentrate in places. This being said, what this show does do well is highlight the increasing complexity of the relationships between the characters well as the conversations between Helena and Hermia or the scenes in which Peter Quince is trying to organise a performance of his play show.
It is certainly a performance that celebrates the beauty of Shakespeare’s language – by being stripped back in this way you can appreciate the way in which the language has been used to great effect with regards into building and shaping the characters as well as the story itself. However, it feels as though this reading of the play could have done a lot more visually to capture the audience’s imagination and to make the characters feel as though they are connected to each other despite being in separate screens.
Overall, while lively and fun to watch particularly performance wise it just felt as though it was lacking the sparkle and magic that this play requires.
By Emma Clarendon
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