A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 15 February 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 13 Feb 7.45pm.
Captioned 12 Feb.
Runs: 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Carole Woddis 10 February.
Has there ever been such a golden age of puppetry? Now it has turned up gloriously in Tom Morris’ ground-breaking Bristol Old Vic/Handspring Puppets co-production. What a treat it is.
Morris and Handspring’s Dream breaks boundaries refreshingly in every direction. It’s rougher, more rumbustious, ruder, more elemental than any Dream I remember. And more life-affirming.
Canadian director Robert Lepage set his Dream within a muddy swamp. Jonathan Miller’s was a deeply introspective, moving and darkly funny journey into the subconscious. Morris and South African Handspring Puppets (the team behind War Horse) take us further back, to prehistoric times, gods and wood: wood in all its metaphorical, musical and physical possibilities.
The lovers escape to a wood and woods, as we know, can symbolise many varieties of psychological truths. Woods can change us. Morris and Handspring turn wood into puppets but not the delicate puppetry we’ve come to recognise. These recall pre-Christian deities – wooden blocks with carved faces.
Wooden planks are precisely the source of Morris and Handspring’s greatest magic. Planks become trees, instruments, scenography – a moving, wafting background within which an extraordinary ensemble enact the lovers and mechanicals transformative dramas.
If invention and originality are the cornerstones of this production as well as its joyous multi-culturalism and devilish merriment, it is equally the performances that stand out as exceptional.
Speaking with rare clarity, persuasion and passion as well as becoming expert puppet handlers, Bristol’s young company play as if every movement is directed towards the greater whole. You won’t find a more generous Bottom than Miltos Yerolemou’s – and in this instance, the adjective is literal as well as describing his personality.
Then there is the lugubrious, Tommy Cooper-faced Fionn Gill leading Saikat Ahamed and Lucy Tuck’s canine Puck – a creature made from basket, paint-burner, hacksaw and fork manipulated by all three. Akiya Henry is a definitive, fiery spitfire of a Hermia, Naomi Cranston’s eager spaniel a perfect foil as Helena, whilst Saskia Portway’s Annie Lennox lookalike and David Ricardo-Pearce are very much modern humans as well as intimidating mythological figures by virtue of the carved puppet faces they hold aloft.
Snug/Puck: Saikat Ahamed.
Quince/Peaseblossom: Colin Michael Carmichael.
Helena: Naomi Cranston.
Lysander: Alex Felton.
Snout/Puck/Moth: Fionn Gill.
Hermia: Akiya Henry.
Flute/Philostrate/Cobweb: Christopher Keegan.
Demetrius: Klye Lima.
Hippolyta/Titania: Saskia Portway.
Theseus/Oberon: David Ricardo Pearce.
Starveling/Puck/Mustardseed: Lucy Tuck.
Bottom/Egeus: Miltos Yerolemou.
Director: Tom Morris.
Puppets: Handspring Puppet Company.
Designer: Vicki Mortimer.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Composer: Dave Price.
Movement: Andrew Dawson.
Choreographer: Laurel Swift.
Associate director: James Bonas.
Associate designer: Molly Einchcomb.
Associate lighting: Robert Casey.
Associate sound: Tim Middleton.
Associate puppetry director: David Emmings.
Associate musical director: Jonathan Trenchard.
Puppetry associate: Joseph Wallace.
Produced by Bristol Old Vic in association with Handspring Puppet Company.
Co-commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA.
First performed at Bristol Old Vic between 28 February-4 May 2013.