EXETER & TOURING
THE NORTHCOTT THEATRE – TILL 12 MAY
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by William Shakespeare
RUNNING TIME – 2HOURS 10 MINUTES – NO INTERVAL
Northcott Box Office – 01392 726363
REVIEW: CORMAC RICHARDS – 8 MAY 2018
MIDSUMMER MADNESS – ONE CRAZY NIGHT!
Possibly one of the worst things a reviewer can be accused of is giving away a secret, spilling the beans, telling everyone whodunnit! Therefore, it would be churlish of me to even try and hint at the surprise this production opens with. Suffice to say we are greeted with a stand-up routine from Peter Quince; funny, topical and a bit naughty and none of it written by Shakespeare. Indeed, we get some way into his speech and you wonder if the play itself is actually going to start. Then the big surprise is revealed. It’s very clever. I have never before heard an audience gasping with such anticipation, which grew to a virtual crescendo of hysteria. That’s where I will stop. As indeed the action did. A ‘technical hitch’ brought the play to a juddering halt and the audience were left sitting in their seats with nothing happening on stage.
When, eventually, the action resumed, the audience was thrust into a version of the play which, safe to say, no one was expecting. A stripped-down script is taken by the scruff of the neck and punctuated by the characters bursting into song, bread bun fights with each other and the audience, Oberon smashing through the walls, the floor and the ceiling of the set and Puck controlling Demetrius and Lysander with a joy stick as if they were a video game – all of which is incredibly entertaining.
The very talented cast (the programme just lists the performers, not the characters they play) are fully immersed in the lunacy. The Mechanicals double as the house band providing a sound track of original music and sound effects crossing the genre boundary from 50’s sci-fi to rock and back again. A geeky, petulant Rik Mayalesque Oberon in superhero outfit, a Bottom who transforms into an ass brilliantly without the use of any addition to his costume and an attitude-laden Puck who is twice the size of her master are but a few of the highlights of this extraordinary production.
If you had come to study the form and structure of the play you would have been disappointed. If you had come to have great fun, you would have done. The words and story of Shakespeare’s original shine through. Somehow, the narrative survives.
I just wonder if at 2 hours 10 minutes without an interval it is a little too self-indulgent and a quicker launch into the play at the start might have just made the evening even more successful and staunch the parade of theatre-goers whose bladders could not wait any longer. The Northcott is a pretty comfortable theatre, but everyone has their limits.
First performed in 2011, a Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre Production, this is an inventive, off the wall, off the scale bundle of high jinks directed with huge confidence and invention by Sean Holmes. A production, which, when you think you have seen it all, comes back with more surprises. Huge fun!
MATT KING SMITH
CREATED BY: FILTER
DIRECTOR: SEAN HOLMES
DESIGNER: HYEMI SHIN
LIGHTING DESIGNER: OLIVER FENWICK
COMPOSERS & SOUND DESIGNERS: CHRIS BRANCH & TOM HAINES