Peter Hall’s new production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is unadventurous, it uses celebrity hype to ensure ticket sales, Elizabeth Bury’s design is not memorable, and yet it is one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences around.
What makes this production successful is the lack of tampering. Shakespeare’s work was written to entertain the masses and this production allows the play to achieve its original ends. The audience’s response mirrored that of a comedy club; raucous, melodramatic and drunk with humour.
Credit is due too to the actors who communicated the complicated verse with great skill. Some characterisation fell short though. The depiction of Oberon King of Fairies (Charles Edwards) as a snuff sniffing dandy was disappointing and appeared weak next to Dame Judi Dench and her performance as the truly regal Titania. Puck (Reece Ritchie) jumped about the stage with what can only be described as camp hysteria, which was oddly enough too controlled. The performance of the night came from Oliver Chris who squeezed every possible comedic moment from his Brummie characterisation of the ever popular Bottom, this is an example of ‘milking it’ to great success.
The setting is Elizabethan England which “sees Titania, the Fairy Queen, as a portrait of the ageing Queen Elizabeth I, fascinated with the theatre, besieged by courtiers but ‘married to the people of England’”, this decision seemed almost irrelevant, apart from making the audience aware of the plays historical context. It perhaps was used, unnecessarily, to add magnitude to Titania’s comparatively small role.
Hall is lucky to have had accesses to such a phenomenal play and such good actors otherwise this production might have been more than disappointing. Fortunately theatres original ‘Rom-Com’ never gets old, much like Dame Judi Dench.