A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London E1 to 15 February 2020. 3***. William Russell.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare.
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London E1 8JB to 15 February 2020.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Th & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 25mins One interval
TICKETS: 020 702 2789.
Review: William Russell 29 January

The lovers lost in the forest come off best in this stylish production directed by Paul Hart although he is lucky in his Bottom – a performance full of zest by Victoria Blunt standing in for the injured Lauryn Redding in which she channels her inner Jess Philips to considerable effect. The coupling with Titania is a hoot, although as so often happens when the rude mechanicals perform the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe at the end things go off the boil. The company is miked, which means that the words come across, something which did not happen with the Macbeth, the opening play in this short Watermill season. Things are helped by the decision to stage it as a top hats and tails musical with the women in vaguely Victorian dresses with some well chosen songs of the thirties and later, notably the Rogers and Hart Blue Moon and the Donaldson Kahn My Baby Just Cares for Me which end the first and second acts, to help things along.
There is a handsome backcloth for the forest scenes, the instrument playing cast seem happier with their music than they did with the rock tunes required of them in the Scottish play, and the result is as good an introduction to Shakespeare as can be for those seeing it for the first time and for those seeing it for the umpteenth time, and it is one of his most performed plays, it passes the time pleasingly. Lucy Keirl and Robyn Sinclair are a spirited Hermia and Helena, Billy Postlethaite and Mike Slader joust splendidly as Lysander and Demetrius and there is a suitably sexy Titania from Emma Mcdonald. Designer Katie Lias has come up with a splendid ass’s head for Bottom and things move along briskly until it all grinds to a halt with that wretched play so that when Puck comes to deliver the final speech one has begun to want them to stop, whereas it should be wistful and ironic about the smiles and tears of that summer night of misunderstandings we have just witnessed. Puck, although nicely done by Molly Chesworth, tends to fade from view at times, odd for what is usually a scene stealing part and given that it is Puck’s incompetence that fuels the misalliances. Something to do with the costume I suspect which fails to make clear Puck is from another world. A female Puck is neither here nor there. But a female Bottom could have been tricky, the casting just a fashionable nod to the current practice of women seizing roles written for men. But nothing is made of his or her sex, Blunt is just Bottom, a young working person greedy for everything going delighted when suddenly his or her wildest dreams come true. She also creates an endearing rapport with the audience the while so that it becomes complicit in the joke. With a cast of ten there is a lot of doubling taking place with the lovers playing rude mechanicals and it is a tribute to their skills that it never becomes confusing. This is a delightful trip into the woods.

Puck: Molly Chesworth.
Bottom: Victoria Blunt.
Theseus: Tom Sowinski.
Hermia: Lucy Keirl.
Lysander: Billy Postlethwaite.
Demetrius: Mike Slader.
Titania/Hippolyta: Emma Mcdonald.
Oberon: Jamie Satterthwaite.
Quince: Peter Mooney.
Helena: Robyn Sinclair.

Director: Paul Hart.
Designer: Katie Lias.
Movement Director: Tom Jackson Green.
Lighting Designer: Tom White.
Sound Designer: David Gregory.
Musical Director: Joey Hickman.
Magic Consultants: Katherine Mills & Simon Slater.
Rehearsal & production photography: Pamela Raith, Scott Rylander & Richard Kenworthy.

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