adapted by Roger Warren from William Shakespeare’s
Propeller on tour to 9 October 2010.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review Mark Courtice 15 September at New Theatre Royal Portsmouth.
Fun for all ages.
This is advertised as Shakespeare’sMidsummer Night’s Dream for young audiences, but there are great pleasures here, whatever your age. Coming from Propeller, Edward Hall’s all-male company, there is iconoclasm aplenty, but also integrity. This show does the original proud; it retains important things, while having the sense to accept that in an hour it can’t give us a taste of everything in the rich, complex original.
Richness and complexity remain however in what’s retained – the domestic argument in fairyland and its effect on a quartet of young lovers and a gang of local tradesmen. That’s due to Roger Warren’s clever adaptation not being afraid of the poetry but including thrilling and gutsy chunks of it, to the delight of young and old. There may be a few plot inconsistencies because of the ruthless cutting (why does Bottom reappear dressed as an ass, for instance?) but the emotional core remains completely consistent.
All this is served by an excellent production from Edward Hall. It has echoes of his full-length version of 2008, but also has its own bare-boards aesthetic. It retains the thundering energy, allied to a shape-shifting fluid style underpinned by helpful costumes, edgy sound and lighting and well-selected and spikily-performed music. It’s completely right that Titania should scream through Jimi Hendix’s Purple Haze in the throes of her misdirected passion, for instance.
The performances are impressive in their warmth, inviting young audiences to take part, unafraid of clambering through the auditorium, which remains lit throughout. This generosity is allied to strong physicality (the fights are short, sharp and nasty), and a cappella musicality.
The acting is variable, but Jon Trenchard’s Puck is attractive and wily, while Chris Myles gives Bottom some complexity to go with the bombast. It’s the verse that trips up some of the company, but not David Newman’s excellent Hermia/Snug double, or Thomas Padden’s Demetrius.
At an hour long, it’s almost too short – it’s unbalanced in favour of the mechanicals – but bustling, clever and honest. This snappy Shakespeare treat is fun however old you are.
Titania/Helena/Starveling Richard Dempsey.
Oberon/Nick Bottom Chris Myles.
Puck/Francis Flute Jon Trenchard.
Lysander/Tom Snout Jonathan Livingstone.
Demetrius/Peter Quince Thomas Padden.
Hermia/Snug David Newman.
Director Edward Hall.
Designer Michael Pavelka.