A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Middle Temple Hall Middle Temple Lane EC4Y 9AT To 14 April 2012.
Mon–Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 8700 887.
Review: William Russell 7 April.
A rather splendid dream.
If A Midsummer Night’s Dream is to work then the rude Mechanicals led by Bottom the Weaver have to be funny. If the clowns are tedious (and Shakespeare’s clowns can be very tedious indeed) then it all goes wrong.
In this slick production by Ben Horslen and John Risebero the Mechanicals are very funny indeed. Maybe Nicholas White’s lugubrious Bottom is more Bugs Bunny than an ass, when transformed into Titania’s lover, but that is by the way. He is splendidly self-centred and stupid, and the rest of the Mechanicals back him up beautifully.
The actors playing these roles also play the fairies surrounding Titania, which is a nice idea. Maybe Tony Austin lacks the height to be a truly commanding Oberon, but he can speak the verse and gets away with it. Helen Evans is a beautiful Titania and as the lovers, Ami Sayers is a diminutive, bitchy Hermia, Edward Lewis French an elegant Lysander, Joanna Nuttall, a genuine beanpole, a fine Helena, and Robert Welling as Demetrius, a strutting bantam cock of a man, is hilarious. When he and Helena wed one imagines their surname will be revealed as Eccleston.
There are some nice touches. Puck, played with considerable brio by Dylan Kennedy, finally gathers the four together to sort out their coupling – and gets it wrong. The two boys end up in each other’s arms.
The acoustics of Middle Temple Hall (where Twelfth Night had its first production) are not all that good, and some lines are swallowed-up. Closer grouping might have helped, or a different seating configuration. Kennedy’s Puck is a little solid – he misses the role’s fey side slightly. But as a dedicated mischief-maker he is a delight and he has a truly magnificent entrance, materialising, it would seem, out of nowhere.
This Antic Disposition production could not be bettered as an introduction to Shakespearian comedy, while for those who have seen The Dream more times than they care to remember, it comes up fresh as love in idleness, or whatever else grew upon that bank apart from wild thyme.
Theseus/Oberon: Tony Austin.
Hippolita/Titania: Helen Evans.
Egeus/Robin Starveling/Mustardseed: Chris Courtenay.
Hermia: Ami Sayers.
Lysander: Edward Lewis French.
Helena: Joanna Nuttall.
Demetrius: Robert Welling.
Peter Quince/Moth: James Fellow.
Nick Bottom: Nicholas White.
Francis Flute/Fairy: Christopher Rowland.
Tom Snout/Cobweb: Chris Waplington.
Snug/Peaseblossom: Chris David Storer.
Oberon: Tony Austin.
Puck: Dylan Kennedy.
Directors: Ben Horslen, John Risebero.
Designer: John Risebero.
Lighting: Rob Mills.
Music: James Burrows.
Musical Director: Christopher Peake.
Choreographer: Edward Lewis French.