A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Octagon Theatre To 6 March 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 24 Feb, 3 March 1.30pm, 27 Feb 2pm.
Audio-described 4 March.
BSL Signed 25 Feb.
Runs 3hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 February.
Visions of community and society.
Backed by a huge, idealised portrait of himself in uniform, Rob Edwards’ Theseus seems to believe a change in manner can put the tensions between himself and his new wife behind them. He’s wrong. Dressed in black, Paula Jennings’ Hippolyta walks out when he decides against Hermia and humanity in favour of Hermia’s military father Egeus (an irate Russell Richardson) and law-and-order. Theseus runs after her but comes back empty-handed.
This ordered, tense society broadens into the highly-coloured fairy world, where military uniforms possess psychedelic tints, and social controls evaporate. Far apart as the auditorium allows, Oberon and Titania, she all in white, start a right royal row. The fatigue unreasonable command involves is clear in Oberon.
Thacker’s biggest success is with most productions’ weak-link, the young lovers caught in their elders’ world. Usually lines are belted excitedly out and running-around substitutes for sense. There’s plenty of activity here, but the difference between Jake Norton’s conventional Demetrius and Nick Underwood’s Lysander, whose hippy tendency comes out in the forest, is clear. No wonder Egeus preferred Demetrius.
Every line is well-crafted to give meaning, as is the contrast between Rosie Jones’ Hermia, striding confidently map in hand, someone unused to disappointment who only slowly realises she’s no longer loved. Vanessa Kirby’s Helena clearly had a squally childhood; she searches for the images in “”O happy fair”, on her knees between sulk and plea.
The Mechanicals come into their own at the end – though the restrained frustration of Russell Dixon’s Peter Quince is repeatedly comic. We, like the court, laugh at their attempt on ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. Then, suddenly, the play grabs hold of Flute, who takes longer than usual to realise Pyramus is dead. The scene has a new reality. And the troupe begin their bergamasque with mimes of their trades. It reminds us of the dignity of their skills, while their little ensemble gives a sense of honesty and community, a sense increased by Thacker’s inclusive casting and the division of the closing benediction, in a production where the human spirit replaces external order as the foundation for society.
Theseus/Oberon: Rob Edwards.
Hippolyta/Titania: Paula Jennings.
Philostrate/Puck: Leo Atkin.
Egeus/Fairy Colonel/Snug: Russell Richardson.
Russell Dixon, Brendan Quinn.
Amazon/Music Fairy: Carol Sloman.
Starveling/Amazon/Dance Fairy: Kiruna Stamell.
Hermia: Rosie Jones.
Helena: Vanessa Kirby.
Demetrius: Jake Norton.
Lysander: Nick Underwood.
Tom Snout/Colonel/Fairy Colonel: Laurence Clark.
Peter Quince/Colonel/Fairy Colonel: Russell Dixon.
Nick Bottom: Kieran Hill.
Francis Flute/Colonel/Fairy Colonel.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Ashley Sharp.
Lighting: Wayne Dowdeswell.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer: Carol Sloman.
Movement: Lesley Hutchinson.
Assistant director: Elizabeth Newman.