by William Shakespeare.

Broadway Studios 28 Tooting High Street SW17 ORG To 7 September 2013.
Wed-Sat 7.45pm except 28, 30 Aug 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.45pm.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 0845 680 1926.
Review: Carole Woddis 15 August.

Rough, raucous, respectful Shakespeare entertains.
Possibly Shakespeare’s most appealing summer comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes up bright as a new penny in Bill Buckhurst’s third production for the small but perfectly-formed Tooting Arts Club.

After Peckham’s Bussey Building, here’s another south London local initiative, set up in a former dairy and Youth Enterprise Scheme diary near Tooting High Street. Producer Rachel Edwards and her associate Susan Dunn have already turned it into a welcoming venue with a bar and paintings by local artists around the walls.

Buckhurst’s production may not be the `purest’ version of Shakespeare you’ll ever see. But, what it lacks in poetry it makes up for with energy, fun and flair. When was the last time you saw the quarrelling lovers getting down and dirty?

Love amongst the hay-stacks indeed as Buckhurst – nominated for his previous TAC production of Barbarians in the Off West End Best Director awards – sets the woodland scene outside on the “dank and dirty ground” with we, the audience, surrounding the actors, sitting on bales of hay. Buckhurst’s production could rightly claim to be described as promenade, with action flowing back and forth between makeshift stages.

Drawing on a local cast, many making their professional debuts, Buckhurst has not indulged in any particularly over-arching `concept’. Rather his keynote seems to be enjoyment, a kind of end-of-the-pier broad comedy and a make-do-and-mend spirit. Fairies in pack-a-macs, Titania in flowing cape and black stiletto boots, a club-based finale with DJ and cast bumping and grinding to disco beats are just a few of the racier, tongue in cheek interludes Buckhurst injects alongside a respectful attention to the verse.

Waleed Elgadi particularly leads from the front as a commanding, vengeful Oberon, aided and abetted by Richard James-Neale’s Puck, an unusually spiteful, white-faced court clown decked-out, startlingly amongst the modern dress, in Elizabethan hose and codpiece.

Christopher Knott makes a large and boisterous Bottom whilst amongst the four lovers – also doubling as the Mechanicals – Racheal Ofori as Helena carries more than a touch of a young Josette Simon about her in elegance and timing. Definitely one to watch.

Lysander/Tom Snout: Waleed Akhtar.
Theseus/Oberon/Peter Quince: Waleed Elgadi.
Puck/Philostrate/Fight Captain: Richard James-Neale.
Egeus/Nick Bottom: Christopher Knott.
Helena/Robin Starveling: Racheal Ofori.
Hermia/Francis Flute: Kathryn Perkins.
Demetrius/Snug: Declan Perring.
Hippolyta/Titania: Katie Wimpenny.

Director: Bill Buckhurst.
Designer: Ellan Parry.
Lighting: Ralph Stokeld.
Sound: Josh Richardson.

2013-08-19 11:41:13

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