A Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream
This is a must see production (as is The Merchant of Venice). The playing is
outstanding, the direction imaginative and often lovely to watch and the
interpretation is conceptually coherent. I have never seen such a vibrant Helena.
Lucy Briggs-Owenâ€™s shrill athletic Helena is a million miles away from her
Luscinda in Cardenio but the
character is just as fully realised. An often hilarious triumph. Alex Hassell
as Demetrius shows off his acrobatic skills and Nathaniel Martello-White speaks
the verse beautifully as Lysander. I didnâ€™t warm to Arsher Aliâ€™s Puck but he
did make the idea of Puck as Philostrate and vice-versa thought provoking and
interesting. As Puck he was more of a manager of â€œmirthlessnessâ€ than of
â€œmirthâ€ taking on some of the grumpiness of his 60s court character. Jo Stone
Fewings as Oberon and Pippa Nixon as Titania were delightful, serving to
contast their RP fairy characters with their London-accented human alter egos.
One of our friends said that it was well worth going
just to see the play within the play. Rehearsal scenes and the play itself were
brisk and clever. Chike Okonkwoâ€™s muscled wall was a hoot, as was Felix Hayesâ€™s
lion. I loved all of them but Marc Wootonâ€™s braying was the best thing. He was
a completely convincing ass and his series of parodies of film versions of
Shakespearian actors an unexpected delight. Be prepared for a surprise when the
mechanicalsâ€™ curtain is accidentally parted.
For those who know the play very well there are some
very interesting moments.Â The doubling
of Theseus and Hippolyta and Oberon and Titania is very cleverly done. There is
no love lost at all between Hippolyta and Theseus at the beginning of the play.
She thinks nothing of Theseusâ€™s attentions nor of his support of Aegeusâ€™s
dominant patriarchal view of socety, claiming his daughter Hermia as his
property to dispose of how he wants. She wouldnâ€™t as a captive Amazon Queen.
But at the end the wedding is harmonious. She appears to like Theseus and is
full of smiles. Why? How? It seems to be that itâ€™s her contact with magic. Not
only are the pairs doubled but our attention is drawn to the doubling. After
Theseus has released Titania from her spell, they undress each other from their
fairy king and queenâ€™s garments and dress each other in their earthly
charactersâ€™ garments. Theseus and Hippolyta are Oberon are Titania and vice
versa. It has always seemed odd to me that Titania shows no resentment towards
Oberon for having made her become besotted with an ass. However, here,
Hippolyta (who is Titania in some sense) learns from Titaniaâ€™s forgiveness of
Oberon and is reconciled to marriage with Theseus. Not just reconciled but
happy about it. Forgiveness and love in the spirit world transfers into the
Something similar happens with the four lovers. Their
experiences in the spirit world allow them to become harmonious partners.
I wasnâ€™t sure about the ballet of suspended chairs but
I think that was because I was sitting in the stalls. If you sit in the
Galleries then you have to look through the wood of the chairs in order to see
what is going on. Wood. Chairs. The wood of the fairy world clouds but softens
the human world. A bit the same with the Mechanicals using the new deep trap.
They entered and descended on their first entrance in Act II to do electrical
work after the lights have fused and at the end they descended again to do the
same thing. Despite the rude comments of the courtiers (mercifully somewhat cut
in this production) they cannot survive without the underclass.
One of the delights of the repertory system is seeing
fine actors play such different parts in the same season. So far itâ€™s Lucy
Briggs-Owen and Christopher Godwin who have wowed me with their versatility.
And I wait eagerly too see what brilliant director Nancy Meckler does next. I
have not seen her work before and I want lots more.