A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 4 August 2012.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 4pm.
Audio-described 28 July 4pm.
BSL Signed 3 Aug.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 July.
Catches the spirit and does well by some of the letter.
For some it’s a Midsummer Nightmare; for others a real dream. Regrets over wasted time and money balance those who can’t wait to see it, or see it again.
That’s judging by the Royal Exchange’s blog. For this Dream is filtered through the sensibility of experimental sound and music specialists Filter, and had its origins within the open-air latitude of Suffolk’s Latitude festival. This version began 2012 at its director’s home theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith. If there’s a moment that sums-up the difference between its raised-stage, proscenium existence there and the wide-open Manchester stage, it’s the way a cast member is recruited. In London, he was unwillingly cajoled from the stalls, complete with Sainsbury’s shopping-bags. At the inclusive, in-the-Round Exchange, he’s a volunteer, calling from the audience. He still shops at Sainsbury, though.
Ed Gaughan’s opening stand-up remains wittily reliant on his Irish manner, making self-deprecation a form of attack – though he’s now dropped the Daily Mail theatre critic from his firing-line (always a Lyric grudge).
As for the show’s outbursts onto the stage, with no walls for characters to crash through, or fly past, horizontal equivalents have been found. They don’t offer quite the same scope, but the stage still ends a mess and several surfaces get torn along the way.
So, no, it’s not your regular production, though the moments Shakespeare appears, he’s well spoken – take the opening anger, subsiding into a definitely-felt love, and concern that true love’s course never runs smooth. And if education secretary Michael Gove receives a swingeing comment from Gaughan, that fits a rough, energetic playing-style that’s a long way from any safely scholastic ‘sweet master Shakespeare’. And which has people laughing.
It’s strong on the interplay of theatre and life, catching the comedy’s spirit; fairy-dust is replaced by palpable stuff squeezed from tubes and spilled from packets – it leaves, if not a wrack, a mess behind. No wonder stage-manager Claire gets short-tempered when an actor splutters helplessly in her direction.
Lord, what fools these mortals be, wherever they are. But surprisingly endearing too. Perhaps Shakespeare could be sweet. Just not tame.
Frances Flute/Musician: Chris Branch.
Oberon/Theseus: Jonathan Broadbent.
Peter Quince: Ed Gaughan.
Lysander: John Lightbody.
Hippolyta/Titania: Poppy Miller.
Snug/Musician: Alan Pagan.
Puck: Ferdy Roberts.
Demetrius: Rhys Rusbatch.
Hermia: Gemma Saunders.
Helena: Rebecca Scroggs.
Director: Sean Holmes.
Designer: Hyemi Shin.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound/Music: Tom Haines, Chris Branch.
Assistant director: Stef O’Driscoll.