MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: William Shakespeare
RSC, Main House, Stratford upon Avon
Runs: 3h, one interval. To 5 November
Review: Rod Dungate, 04 08 2011
A feel-marvellous summer dalliance
Nancy Meckler is a clever director and, not surprisingly, given her past, strong on ensemble and storytelling. This DREAM takes a bit of time to build up steam, but once on the boil it’s full of joy, delight and great good humour. Just right for summer.
Meckler sets her play in a kind of Godfatherland – and it works well; in such a macho, hierarchical society the ‘you’ll marry the man your father says or you die’ type of thing is totally believable. And even more believable that the daughter will run away with her out-of-the-gang love. Meckler strengthens her story context with the obvious distaste that Hippolyta has for Theseus. Not much awareness of gender equality here! And a great set up for the battle of the sexes to follow.
Meckler’s Forest is minimally tree-ed, but full of rising and falling chairs (and armchairs). So Katrina Lindsay’s designs make for a strange and colourful dreamlike environment.
The four lovers look innocently young and are completely gorgeous. The four of them are a brilliant team; working together, ever alert to the life of the play, mining comedy from the changing situations. The climax scene between them in the second half is about as good as you’ll see it. Mean of me to pick one of them out, but Lucy Briggs-Owen’s Helena is hilariously heartbreaking – what an expressive face, and how she knows how to use it. (Judging by this and her Vivie in the recent MRS WARREN, Briggs-Owen is an actor to keep an eye on.)
In the woods Arsher Ali doesn’t yet have the totality of Puck, though he has his moments. Once he relaxes more and makes the performance his own, this unusual casting will add an interesting dimension.
If the young aristo lovers create a strong bond, they are matched by the ensemble from the workers. Even their first scene earns a round from the audience – and well deserved. Marc Wootton balances bluster and naivete in a well-meaning Bottom – and Puck gives him more than big ears as a donkey – ooops ass. Christopher Godwin’s long-suffering Quince is a total delight.
Theseus: Jo Stone-Fewings
Hippolyta: Pippa Nixon
Egeus: Kammy Darweish
Hermia: Matti Houghton
Lysander: Nathaniel Martello-White
Demetrius: Alex Hassell
Helena: Lucy Briggs-Owen
Philostrate: Arsher Ali
Peter Quince: Christopher Godwin
Nick Bottom: Marc Wootton
Francis Flute: Michael Grady-Hall
Tom Snout: Chike Okonswo
Snug: Felix Hayes
Robin Starveling: Timothy Speyer
Oberon: Jo Stone-Fewings
Titania: Pippa Nixon
Puck: Arsher Ali
Fairies: Maya Barcot, Christopher Chilton, Kammy Darweish, Imogen Does, Lanre Malaolu, Theo Ogundipe, Amanda Wilkin
Directed by: Nancy Meckler
Designed by: Katrina Lindsay
Lighting Designed by: Wolfgang Gobbel
Music by: Keith Clouston
Sound Designed by: Gregory Clarke
Movement Direction and Choreography by: Liz Ranken
Fights by: Malcolm Ranson
Company Text and Voice Work by: Alison Bomber
Additional Company Movement: Struan Leslie and Kate Sagovsky
Chorus Work: Joyce Henderson
Assistant Director: Drew Mulligan
Casting: Hannah Miller