July 25, 2016
Last year, my only Shakespeare outing was Hamlet. This year, it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that I personally had never seen before. Where better to witness this play for the first time than at the Globe Theatre, Sam Wanamaker’s architectural marvel, which stands on the same ground as the original Globe back in the Bard’s day?
It was fitting that we went to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe on a dream of a midsummer’s night. Well, technically it was just past midsummer, but the recent good weather made for a wonderful setting in which to watch this Shakespearean romantic comedy. Emma Rice’s first directorial effort as artistic director blends together a variety of surprising elements, not least the musical interludes from the likes of Beyoncé, Bowie and Shaggy but also with cultural references to Kubrick and more. Nobody can accuse this production of being boring.
You might assume from that brief description that this particular production modernises everything, but you would be wrong. The musical inclusions are sporadic and although there are allusions to the modern day (not least in some of the costumes), it is still predominantly grounded in the traditions of the text. One review has described it as ‘a Dream for the Glastonbury generation’; considering Glastonbury is a family festival, this seems quite apt as large swathes of the crowd will enjoy it and only the most stuffy of traditionalists will leave with a frown on their face.
For those that have never seen the play (no shame in that, I too was part of your group until a couple of days ago), the plot concerns a number of characters, all of whom have eyes for somebody else. With a mischievous fairy called Puck (an outstanding Katy Owen) flying about and administering a love potion on various members of the cast, the various romantic entanglements become a lot more confusing…because once the potion has been taken, the receiver will fall in love with the very first person (or thing) that they set eyes on.
It’s a fab setup that has been widely copied over the past four hundred or so years and with good reason, the comedic possibilities are pretty much endless. So it goes here with humorous fights and witty interplay between the characters as they set out to marry one character and then turn right around and fall in love with somebody else completely different. All the while, a group of amateur dramatists are rehearsing a ‘play within a play’, allowing some respite from the main plot.
This is certainly a joyful and irreverent play to admire and watching from the pit – just £5 to stand – only added to the circus of enjoyment. Cabaret artist Meow Meow performs as Titania, even throwing in some aerial acrobatics along the way, so it’s fair to say you’ve never seen anything quite like this production. Indeed, rather than the ‘normal’ musical accompaniment, the chief instrument here is the sitar, which evokes an almost Indian summer feel to the play.
As a first foray into the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this production was wonderful and may even be the perfect play for someone looking to take their children along for the first time. The cultural references bring the production bang up to date, whilst never being overbearing. Tremendous fun, you’ll be glad you made the effort to see it!
For more information on A Midsummer Night's Dream and to book, please visit The Globe Theatre website here.
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By Henry Fosdike