A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Tour to 7 December 2012.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 19h November at Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.
Shakespeare meets Dad’s Army in a most enjoyable production.
Welsh partnership Mappa Mundi/Torch Theatre/Theatr Mwldan seems to have a thing about World War Two. Its Much Ado About Nothing last year was set in the wartime forties and so is this Dream. The wheeze was neither here nor there in 2011 but in this production it pays off.
On the face of it, having everyone in stock gear of the period – the costumes are excellent – doesn’t bring out any fresh nuances from the original play, but it facilitates some highly entertaining bolt-on bits and pieces. A splendid Flanagan and Allen routine, for instance, is tacked on to the play-within-the-play, which even without it is one of the two highlights of the evening.
The other is the central confusion scene involving the four lovers. Here, the stand-out performance is Joanna Simpkins’s as Helena, a tall WRAC officer. She generates our pity more than our laughs when it seems the other three are all against her. She’s nicely contrasted with Lisa Zahra, as Hermia, a short land girl in bib and brace. Jack Brown’s Lysander has an authentic US uniform and accent, and Demetrius (Sam Jones) is a British officer with a moustache.
Implausibly, the mechanicals become the St Athens Church Amateur Dramatic Society, so Matthew Bulgo’s Peter Quince is your fussy vicar in a black cassock and Bottom (Liam Tobin) is an air-raid warden – all more than a nod to Dad’s Army.
The fairy world is well realised. Everyone is in black, which contributes a sinister and disturbing quality to the evening. Francois Pandolfo , who plays Puck as a camp Chaplinesque figure, almost an acrobat, at the same time gives him real malevolence. He’s actually the stuff of midsummer nightmares.
Scene changing is done largely with the aid of back projection, which is highly effective, especially when it comes to the forest scenes. It’s not clear though why the play opens with Theseus’s court watching a twenties silent melodrama. The period music, including some less familiar, non-clichéd numbers, is fun.
This is a most enjoyable production.
Theseus/Oberon: Richard Nichols.
Hippolyta/Titania: Lynne Seymour.
Puck/Philostrate: Francois Pandolfo.
Egeus/Quince: Matthew Bulgo.
Hermia: Lisa Zahra.
Helena: Joanna Simpkins.
Lysander: Jack Brown.
Demetrius: Sam Jones.
Bottom: Liam Tobin.
Snug/First Fairy: Lloyd Grayshon.
Snout: Llinos Mai.
Flute: James Peake.
Director: Peter Doran.
Designer: Sean Crowley.
Lighting: Ceri James.
Composer: Peter Knight.