by William Shakespeare

Bristol Old Vic To 7 June 2003
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 26 May Mat Thu & Sat 2pm
Audio-Described 31 Mat 2pm & 7.30pm
BSL Signed 7June 2pm
Runs 2hr 45min One interval

TICKETS: 0117 987 7877
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 May, 2003

A fine Dream, as fresh as dew yet reeking of theatre.Here’s the third fine Shakespeare I’ve seen from director David Farr – the RSC Coriolanus naturally; also the superb Nottingham Playhouse Shrew, an East Midlands production set in the U.S. Midwest with the coming 1960s youth and sexual revolutions offering a joyous liberation to the new generation’s best, Katherine and Petruchio. There’s a similar sense of societal stays being loosened in Farr’s fine new Bristol Dream.

It’s not exactly site-specific, but it makes use of the Old Vic’s 18th century architecture, with Theseus’ buttoned-up court all formal in front of a mock Safety Curtain. Egeus and his wayward daughter Hermia erupt like noisy latecomers through the auditorium door and charge down the central aisle to disturb the quiet elegance.

Later Helena’s seen smashing her way through the Safety Curtain, leaving society’s daylight rationality for the twisted darkness of imagination’s night – a forest from the Georgian theatre’s scene dock. It’s an escape into danger, one necessary for personal growth beyond the strained correctness in the court of a duke who will later decry lunatics, lovers and poets.

Theatre runs consciously through the show: it’s red plush curtain-up on Titania’s bower, Puck emerges and vanishes to mislead the young Athenians like a Victorian theatre ghost, and Farr extends Shakespeare’s joke on the amateur-actor Mechanicals with their clumsy concentration on externals – scenery and props – rather than characterisation.

I thought I’d had enough Dreams to mean I’d never come across a new joke to be played in ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, but there are several fresh, laugh out-loud moments. Bottom, wannabe progenitor of all one-man showmen, is upstaged by his helmet and tries to stab himself through metallic armour that must have seemed so impressive in rehearsal.

And the Mechanicals’ own ‘Safety Curtin’ (sic) – theatres always have one, so they will too, however unnecessarily – wheels round to reveal stuck-on notes of stupendous banality.

Yet Stewart Wright’s Bottom has a human sensitive note, and there’s a shared humanity among all these thespian no-hopers. Craig Edwards’ Flute, stepping forward on autopilot to bow every time Peter Quince (Will Tacey splendidly authoritative in out-of-his-depth direction) mentions Thisbe’s name in his introduction, Andrew Melville’s ultra-phlegmatic Snout or the others: you could trust these men’s work in their own trade.

There’s a life to them that’s more appealing than a court where master of revels Philostrate is dourly disapproving – well might he translate into Puck. No wonder a passionate, assertive young person like Lyndsey Marshal’s Hermia – one of a fine lovers’ quartet – wants out. A rich, delightful evening.

Oberon/Theseus: Ronan Vibert
Titania/Hippolyta: Jaye Griffiths
Puck/Philostrate: Tom Smith
Egeus/Robin Starveling: David Sibley
Hermia: Lyndsey Marshal
Demetrius: Matthew McKenzie-Lee
Lysander: Patrick Kennedy
Helena/First Fairy: Kate Fleetwood
Peter Quince Will Tacey
Nick Bottom: Stewart Wright:
Francis Flute: Craig Edwards
Tom Snout: Andrew Melville
Snug: Howard Coggins
Fairies: Nicholas Atkinson, Lydia Leonard, Sarah McNeale, Jenna Renshaw, David Ricardo-Pearce, Poppy Roberts, Jack Whitam

Director: David Farr
Designer: Angela Davies
Lighting: Hartley T A Kemp
Sound: Jason Barnes
Composer: Keith Clouston
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Voice: Cecily Berry
Dialect coach: Neil Swain

2003-05-17 12:31:46

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