Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Paul Gladwin
Reviewer: Sheila Cornelius
The Public Reviews Rating:
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but I can’t remember a better adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ than the sixties-inspired show at Coram’s Fields. A musical background of the Beatles’ greatest hits, arranged by Ruth Clarke-Irons, and a troupe of flower-power fairies, chimes perfectly with Shakespeare’s arguably most whimsical play.
Given the recent awful weather and pre-Olympics gloom, Principle Theatre’s psychedelic entertainment really hits the spot. Londoners will easily empathise with characters sprinkled in fairy dust and jerked by invisible strings.
The scene is Athens, in the run up to a great event: the wedding of the Duke and Duchess, a regally detached Cameron Robertson, and charismatic Maddie Rice. In a major plot diversion, the bride-to-be is transformed to Titania, Queen of the Fairies while the Duke becomes husband Oberon, demanding the return of a page he claims is his own.
Oberon’s speedy factotum Puck, a nimble Annabelle Brown, makes ‘a girdle round the earth in thirty minutes’ to procure a plant whose extract can make a victim besotted at first sight. Puck’s ability to transform a man into a donkey adds to the superb, comic shenanigans.
The woods near Athens seems as crowded as Leicester Square on a premiere night as a quartet of bickering lovers alternate with guitar-playing fairies in Day-Glo wigs and a troupe of workers preparing an am dram play for the bride and groom.
Exuberant ensemble playing is enhanced by Paul Gladwin’s fast-paced direction and Laura-Kate Nice’s spot-on choreography. Outstanding performances make a triumph of this cheerfully zany romp.
The minimal staging consists of tent-style gazebos linked by a giant picture frame. Ground level seating on park benches in the heart of Bloomsbury seems several degrees cosier than high terraces in the better-known venue in Regent’s Park and promotes an unusual intimacy between actors and audience.
Dave Bibby is outstanding as Bottom, whether volunteering to play all the parts in the ‘lamentable comedy’ of Pyramus and Thisbe, or having to be coaxed back onstage after a strop. Matt Gardener makes a beautifully disciplined leader of the lacklustre thespians while Michael Quinlan is a hysterical Thisbe, complete with exploding breasts.
These rude mechanicals have excellent costumes for the play-within-a-play, including a cardboard Wall, endearing played by Michael Ossitt, that’s a cross between The Angel of the North and a fun-run competitor in the London Marathon.
Rachel Barry’s slighted Helena is endearingly gawky, the perfect foil to Michelle Whitney’s squeaky-voiced Hermia. Her attempt to restrain an escaping male by wrapping herself round him like a tarantula provides one of the comedy highlights of a very funny show.
Even the Duke on his wedding day needs to be reassured that the entertainment will be Olympics-free and this production provides the perfect antidote to pre-Games depression. Londoners should hurry to Coram Fields for guaranteed symptom relief.
Runs until August 4thA Midsummer Night’s Dream - Coram’s Fields, London,
Tags: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Annabelle Brown, Cameron Robertson, Coram’s Fields, Dave Bibby, Elizabeth Rowden, Maddie Rice, Matt Gardner, Michael Ossit, Michael Quinlan, Michelle Whitney, Paul Gladwin, Rachel Barry, Ruth Clarke-Irons, William Shakespeare