A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: William Shakespeare
RSC: The RST
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval, Stratford Upon Avon and touring
Tkts: 0844 800 1110
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 27 02 16
Strong, witty, lapses in consistency
Erica Whytman’s production is full of youthful energy. It has a charm and directness that makes it engaging. It is striking conceptually and visually. However, it lacks subtlety which mars the over-all effect, where characters need authority it is lacking so that the production seems to be on one level. And frequently the actors seem to be working against the text instead of enabling the language to work for them, the play loses the added delight in the verse. It feels as if everyone is trying to hard to play comedy, though the production calms down in the second half which brings about a great improvement.
Much has been made of the use of different groups of amateur actors to play the working characters. This aspect really comes up trumps. The playing on the Pyramus and Thisbe tragedy had a delightful simplicity that is truly lovely.
The four young lovers spar with each other to great comedic effect, but from time to time you do wonder if they really believe what they are saying. Whytman has orchestrated some telling changes of tone in the opening scenes around Hermia’s fate, with Sam Redford digging well below the words to make it all work.
The cross-gender playing of Puck is an interesting idea; in top hat and white tie, Lucy Ellinson is certainly puckish, darting about, but fails to play Puck in the round and the effect is frequently twee. Ayesha Dharker and Chu Omambala make a striking couple as Titania and Oberon; they encapsulate a sexy high society; if they could bring a little terrifying regality it would enrich there performances no end.
You sense it is all here in this bold and valuable initiative, the production as a whole needs to sit back, take a deep breath and relax.