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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

Harry Hepple as Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Photo by Johan Persson

by William Shakespeare

Director – Matthew Dunster

Set Designer – Jon Bausor

Costume Designer – Laura Hopkins

Composer – Olly Fox

Choreographer – Charlotte Broom

Lighting Designer – James Farmcombe

Sound Designer – Nick Lidster & Ian Duncan for Autograph

 

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

 

2 June – 5 September 2012

 

A construction site complete with barriers, bellowing builders, a billboard and a crane surrounds two caravans which are home to the primary characters in this ultra-modern take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare meets Big Fat Gypsy Wedding with a cast of characters who espouse all the fierceness of the latter while simultaneously paying homage to Shakespeare’s mystical and comic script. The set, designed by Jon Bausor will morph into a forest complete with grassy banks, flowers and a pond and then back to industrial wasteland without hitch.

Costumes, designed by Laura Hopkins, are exceptional. From the “Athenian” garb of Lysander (Tom Padley) and Demetrius (Kingsley Ben Adir) which for the purposes of this production is trendy, labelled sports clobber to the outrageous wedding dresses donned by the brides for the hilarious triple wedding scene, Hopkins has dressed the cast with a winning combination of daring and consideration. Hi-visibility jackets and features abound, accentuated in this wide open space by clever lighting design from James Farcnombe whose work blends and bolsters scenes in equal measure.

Theseus (David Birrell) and Hyppolyta’s (Katie Brayben) tempestuous relationship, wrought with violence and gloom, is well pitched against the rough and ready environment in which half of this production is set, at times, the grime is thinly veiled by frills and sequins, confetti and karaoke.  Four Athenian lovers plagued by the confusion and error of the fairies in whose domain they find themselves provide a lighter look at love in all its capriciousness and obsession once the balance is restored each to each and they are paired off successfully. Ditzy Helena (Rebecca Oldfield) is an absolute show-grabber with consistently incredulous gait and approach in both her unabashed pursuit of Demetrius and her reaction when she abruptly finds herself with two pursuers. Tom Padly is an impeccable Lysander and his committed and vigorous delivery leaves a real impression.

Music is composed by Olly Fox and transports the collective from construction site to Fairyland; the mystical and modern are woven together with relative ease aided by these compositions. Queen of the Fairies, Titania (Tamsin Carrol), her four bandaged servants and Oberon (Christopher Colquhoun), King of the Fairies, emit a mystical presence. Titania’s entrance from the pond in which she has been submerged, swathed in cloth and sporting floor length dreadlocks, constitutes a beautiful, inspired theatrical moment. Titania’s fabricated love for the wretched Bottom (George Bukhari) with the head of an ass, prompted by the juices from the love-in-idleness flower, is unambiguous and powerfully performed.

Preparation for a play within the play about Pyramus and Thespe’s doomed love is performed by the Mechanicals, six labourers from the building site encountered at the start of the evening. Even though the woodland preparation for it provides some wonderfully comical moments, the delivery itself is rather elaborate and peppered with distractions, though the sacrifice does seem worth it for the unremitting comedy of this boldly arranged section.

Shakespeare purists will retreat disdainfully and some of the more daring artistic choices undoubtedly raised some eyebrows, but if even a sprinkle of curiosity hovers about your person, this production picks you up and pulls you along in such a way that the hysterical wedding entertainment and general revelry seem as much for you as for the recently betrothed. Matthew Dunster’s direction seizes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and throws it headlong into 2012 with a production steeped in fun and laced with pleasant surprises, delivered by an all-star cast who clearly delight in the strange and exiting dichotomy between the language of the Bard and its unusual but somehow ideal application to popular culture.

 

 

Hayley Gallivan (Hermia) and Tom Padley (Lysander) in A Midsummer Night's Dream-at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Photo by Johan-Persson
 
Box Office: 0844 826 4242
http://openairtheatre.org/
Tickets - £20 - £49.50
Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London NW1 4NU

 

 

 

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