A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: William Shakespeare.
Nottingham Playhouse: Tkts 0115 941 9419.
Custom/Practice and TEG Productions.
Runs: 2h 5m: one interval: touring.
Review: Alan Geary: 26th February 2013.
Far better than it initially promises to be.
Everyone already knows Dream: what with open-air productions, it comes round at least once a year. So you might expect each new undertaking to have something fresh to say about it. This offering, from director Rae McKen, seems to add nothing to our understanding or appreciation. But in an apparent effort to give the play new legs we get an entirely superfluous and half-hearted framing device.
The heart sinks when the action starts with a school bell: a bunch of unwilling yoofs complete with slack expressions, mobiles and down at heel uniforms are being kept back for detention. An enthusiastic teacher with green-framed glasses, a Mr Goodfellow (clue), gets them to read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They start as grottily as you’d expect. But the man in green glasses casts a spell and the reading transmogrifies into a straightforward rendition of the play. The school is happily forgotten.
Save for a more than usual amount of doubling up and cutting this is an orthodox account of the play. At the end there’s hardly a nod to the long-forgotten framing device: the cast simply scramble back into down at heel school uniform for the curtain.
Despite all these wet-blanket observations it’s a highly enjoyable production. Acting is excellent, the text is properly delivered by everyone, Angela Gasparetto’s choreography is outstanding, and the play within the play performed by Bottom and Co is done especially well.
Hermia, played by Clare McMahon with a pleasant Ulster accent, and Rebecca Loudon’s Helena are nicely contrasted, Loudon giving one of the most compelling performances of the evening. The caper in the woods with their male counterparts, Lysander (Daniel Francis-Swaby) and Demetrius (Naoufal Ousellam) is a clear highpoint of the play. The most painful moment comes when Demetrius gets kicked where it matters, ironically by the future wife.
The low-life play at the end is often anti-climactic and unfunny, but it isn’t here. Bottom, done by Lorenzo Martelli, also excellent as Egeus, is very funny. Martelli has a never over-done rapport with the audience.
This is far better than it initially promises to be.
Lysander/Flute: Daniel Francis-Swaby.
Puck/Philostrate: Shane Frater.
Helena/Quince: Rebecca Loudon.
Theseus/Oberon: Liam Mansfield.
Egeus/Bottom: Lorenzo Martinelli.
Hermia/Snout: Clare McMahon.
Hippolyta/Titania: Rebecca Meyer.
Demetrius/Snug: Naoufal Ousellam.
Director: Rae McKen.
Set and Costume Designer: Rosa Maggiora.
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond.
Composer: Ed Lewis.
Movement Director: Angels Gasparrtto.