A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Wilton’s Music Hall (10 minute walk from Shadwell Station) until 30th June
Runs 2 hrs 15 minutes including 15 minute interval
Veronica Stein, 28 June 2018. @ReviewsGate
A dream in the right hands
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, in the right hands, a frothy delight. The Faction’s new production at Wilton’ Music Hall pledges to bring it to 2018 with a new outlook that resides in the text: Athens is a post-war environment, threatened by climate change, and archaically sentencing women to death who rebuke their arranged marriages. Their success in this regard is up for debate.
The bare set design (Eleanor Field), letting the backdrop of Wilton’s shine with the aid of giant glowing moon, certainly does away with foliage-filled backdrops of other productions. The Faction’s characteristic ensemble movement fill gaps otherwise taken up by disguising donkey-heads and colourful flowers. The play certainly starts with a somber air reflecting the aforementioned substantive elements, for Hermia and Hippolyta both are consigned to a life they do not want. Though the forest is essentially an escape for the young lovers, the effect that instead occurs is a lack of commentary on the themes introduced.
The ensemble and the staging, however, greatly make up for this issue. Standout performances include Herb Cuanalo as the commanding Theseus and Oberon whose text work is quite phenomenal, Christopher York’s sexually charged Lysander and tentative but hilarious Wall, and Lowri Izzard and Laura Evelyn as Hermia and Helena respectively. The scene stealer of the evening is indisputably Christopher Hughes, who as Bottom is both a rapturous physical comedian and the mechanicals’ most keen and flamboyant thespian. His death scene as Pyramus is the highlight of the evening- in fact, the entirety of Pyramus and Thisbe is boisterous and rife with double-entendre, exactly as it should be, and presents a fantastic case for The Faction’s aptitude with text… as well as evidence that leaning into traditional staging in this production proves dividends more than the prior exploration of modernity. On the other hand, Richard James Neale’s movement direction is remarkable and very modern, helping to delineate the multi-roling (coupled with Ben Jacobs’ lighting) alongside presenting the required magic. One tribal movement section is a bit out of place and lacking precedent, however, but watching the company manoeuvre to maintain Bottom’s donkey ears is mesmerizing in and of itself.
The Faction’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Wilton Music Hall has elements that appeal to modern sensibilities and those who prefer Shakespeare as true to its origins as possible. Despite some disparate aspects, the viewing experience is entertaining throughout, and when it reaches its peak during Pyramus and Thisbe, is downright belly-laugh inducing. The strong ensemble and imaginative direction make for pretty splendid rendition. Dreamy indeed.
Lysander/Flute/Peaseblossom: Jeremy Ang Jones
Theseus/Quince/Oberon: Herb Cuanalo
Helena/Snug/Moth: Laura Evelyn
Philostrate/Bottom: Christopher Hughes
Hermia/Starveling/Cobweb: Lowri Izzard
Hippolyta/Titania: Tamarin McGinley
Egeus/Puck: Linda Marlowe
Demetrius/Snout/Mustardseed: Christopher York
Director: Mark Leipacher
Designer: Eleanor Field
Lighting Designer: Ben Jacobs
Movement Director: Richard James Neale
Composer/Sound Design: Yaiza Varona
Photo: The Other Richard