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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Michelle Terry as Titania and Pearce Quigley as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Dominic Drumgoole at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by John Haynes

by William Shakespeare

 

Directed by Dominic Drumgoole

Designed by Jonathan Fensom

Composed by Claire Van Kampen

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

24 May – 12 October 2013

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, arguably the richest feast in Shakespeare’s catalogue, is almost invariably teased out into a major production to backdrop the theatre-scape of London in summer. This year sees the turn of The Globe for the first time in four. The action revolves around three distinct groups: Duke Theseus (John Light) and his court, The ‘Mechanicals’ – a group of enthusiastic tradesmen intent on staging a play to be performed at Theseus’ wedding, and the inhabitants of the forest which houses the court’s elopers and the Mechanicals’ rehearsals. A bracing score by Claire Van Kampen draws the audience into the royal court, then the enchanted forest with consuming force.

John Light’s Oberon, inexplicably, has a thick Irish accent. Perhaps this is for most effective contrast with his Theseus’ haughty tones, or maybe inner city Dublin seemed like the earthiest, most visceral place from which to pluck an accent worthy of a Fairy King. In any case, he delivers solid interpretations of both fundamental roles alongside his dynamic and beguiling counterparts Titania and Hippolyta, played with balanced fervour by Michelle Terry.

Luke Thompson, in his professional debut as Lysander, absolutely perfects the unreserved turning from love to hate for tormented Hermia (Olivia Ross) when caught in the crossfire of a spell meant for his rival Demetrius (Joshua Silver). Helena (Sarah Mac Rae) utterly convinces in her certainty that she is being tricked, and is wholeheartedly offended by Lysander and Demetrius’ advances and what she perceives to be Hermia’s feigned grief at being cast aside. Helena’s masochistic inclinations are imbued with particular relish.

All four young lovers form a wonderfully choreographed, lusty knot at the height of their passionate feuding. Their clothes subtly become increasingly dirty and ragged, reflecting their labours in the forest, seen and unseen. However, the thrill of the chase is everything to the young quartet and once the misunderstandings come to an end they fade into the background with an air of general disappointment. The mockery in Theseus’ deliciously deadpan observation; “Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth” scarcely finds such a snug fit.

Pearce Quigley is an outstanding, show-stealing Nick Bottom. He delivers his lines as though he has swallowed them whole and stubbornly reserves the right to breathe them back out at his own staggered, rhythmic, comic pace. The result makes for both the most charming weaver and demonstrative ass I’ve ever seen. Puck (Matthew Tennyson), the sprite responsible for Nick Bottom’s temporary transformation, is curious, nimble and theatrical. Perfectly fitting the role of Theseus’ plaything, he is tossed around the stage and showered with affection in a consistently enthusiastic state.

The play-within-a-play, crucial to the intensity of the whole production, is a fabulously farcical endeavour. Quince (Fergal McElherron) leads his troupe to relative success at the eventual wedding in spite of a collapsing stage (repaired noisily mid-performance), absurd props (a saw in place of a sword) and a cast who make no distinction between rehearsal antics and the real deal. Direction from the wedding party is delicately weaved into the performance to thought-provoking effect.

It’s only polite to know your audience but Dominic Drumgoole has really gone above and beyond with this thigh-slapping, tear-inducing, howl-provoking interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which will rouse unbridled merriment in Globe audiences right through the season.

 

 

 

Booking: 020 7401 9919
www.shakespearesglobe.com
Tickets: £5 - £39
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk
Bankside, London, SE1 9DT
 

 

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