A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s GlobeCultureTheatre
One of Shakespeare’s earliest and most popular comedies recently began a new run at Shakespeare’s Globe. This unassuming production plays down the darker side of the play’s carnal dalliances and ramps up the laughs instead.
The stage design is kept wonderfully simple: most of the action is restricted to the forest that sees the stage adorned modestly with a few logs. This production is listed as employing Renaissance costumes, which are initially gorgeous but quickly redundant, due to the narrative instructing the performers to be either caked in mud or topless.
Naturally, the acting is superb across the board, with each performer bringing the requisite emotional intensity to make their respective roles work. Lysander (Luke Thompson) and Demetrius (Josh Silver) both have enough goofiness about them that their fervent and forceful lust for the alternating target of their affection remains amusing and never uncomfortable. Their opposite numbers, Olivia Ross as Hermia and Sarah MacRae as Helena, also make an impression, with the latter in particular producing an effective performance that evokes sympathy. It is her character that arguably goes through the most dramatic of arcs, as she has to experience three reversing relationships.
John Light’s vocal is suitably resonant and brings a commanding presence to the roles of Theseus & Oberon. Olivier Award winner Michelle Terry also brings a palpable strength to her roles as Amazonian Queen Hippolyta and as Titania, while the youthful Matthew Tennyson impresses as Puck, prancing around the stage.
However, the real joy to be had in this production comes from Pearce Quigley: blessed with impeccable comedic timing, his turn as Nick Bottom (aka the one who becomes a donkey) is one of pure hilarity. His wordless reaction to the legendary moment when Titania falls for him as a mule is priceless and had the audience in fits of laughter.
But the night’s most memorable and enjoyable moment is the fifth act of Pyramus and Thisbe, as performed by the mechanicals. The play-within-a-play in which Bottom and his incompetent acting troupe entertain the couples is a comedic tour de force. After the mini makeshift stage is brought out and the cast clambers upon it, a dead dog, a weak floorboard and the “Walls chink” are played out to gloriously absurd effect.
Photos: John Haynes
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Shakespeare’s Globe until 12th October 2013. For further information or to book tickets, visit here.
Watch the trailer for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: 2013 Season of Plenty here