A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: William Shakespeare.
RSC: Courtyard, Stratford Upon Avon.
Runs: 3h 05m, one interval, till 13 November 2008.
Review: Rod Dungate, 15 May 2008.
Can a production become richer with age? Can its bouquet become fuller and more mellow? Well, this one seems to have. I reviewed Gregory Doran’s first staging of this production in 2005 – I’ll try not to repeat myself. In 2005 I thought it was beautiful; in 2008 I think it’s even more beautiful.
Looking at it now the production seems like a great celebration of the play itself. With its lightness and its darkness it’s a celebration created with great joy and love; and joy and love communicate themselves to us, thrilling us to our soul. In Francis O’Connor’s designs every second is visually arresting, too. The production is full of theatrical technical effects – they never impose and they always delight.
Doran draws his prime inspiration from the fairy tales we know; frequently stage images rocket us to fairy-story picture books we may remember from our childhood. But he doesn’t stop here – he investigates and explores. The team has clearly been encouraged to invent, Doran merges all – the outrageous, the telling, the light and the dark – into a satisfying whole.
This is the third aspect that impresses me this time round – all the elements of the story bound into a single, iridescent strand. One aspect of this is Joe Dixon’s remarkably perfect performance of Bottom. Dixon brings a disarming naiveté to his character that charms the pants of us – this is a performance really to relish. His fellow workers bring the same quality . . . and not a second of patronising superiority thank goodness.
Much is said about the dark side of this production’s fairies (does ‘faeries’ help?) How interesting they are! They behave like naughty children; they have all that unpredictability – they mimic, they steal, they play cruel jokes. But they are adults – that’s what makes them dangerous.
Kathryn Drysdale is a completely gorgeous Hermia, she appears to bring out all Hermia’s comic potential without effort. Her charmingly girly femininity contrasts beautifully with Natalie Walter’s gawky Helena – whose pleasure at her growing power in the loves stakes brings broad grins to our faces. Mark Hadfield’s edgy and spiky Puck perfectly complements the production.
(If you want to read the 2005 review – http://www.reviewsgate.com/admin.php?module=AddStory&op=EditStory&sid=2356.)
Theseus: Robert Curtis.
Hippolyta: Riann Steele.
Philostrate: Sam Alexander.
Egeus: Keith Osborn.
Hermia: Kathryn Drysdale.
Demetrius: Edward Bennett.
Lysander: Tom Davey.
Helena: Natalie Walter.
Peter Quince: Roderick Smith.
Bottom: Joe Dixon.
Flute: Ryan Gage.
Starveling: Jim Hooper.
Snout: Ricky Champ.
Snug: Ewen Cummins.
Puck: Mark Hadfield.
Oberon: Peter De Jersey.
Titania: Andrea Harris.
1st Fairy / Peaseblossom: Mariah Gale.
Cobweb: David Ajala.
Mustardseed / Puppeteer: Samuel Dutton.
Moth: Zoe Thorne.
Directed by: Gregory Doran.
Designed by: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting Designed by: Tim Mitchell.
Music by: Paul Englishby.
Sound Designed by: Martin Slavin.
Assisted by: Jeremy Dunn.
Movement by: Michael Ashcroft.
Company Text and Voice Work by: Lyn Darnley and Gigi Buffington
Fights by: Terry King.
Aerial Choreography: Gavin Marshall.
Original production Designed by: Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Assistant Director: Cressida Brown.
Music Director: Julian Winn.
Dialect Coach: Majella Hurley.
Casting by: Sam Jones.