St John’s Night at Jermyn Street Theatre
“What’s this? On such intimate terms already?” Poulsen declares at the beginning of Act One. A fitting depiction of the Jermyn Street Theatre, close and verging on cramped. However, for the cosy portrayal of Ibsen’s St John’s Night, this intimacy mostly worked, and brought the audience subtly within the performance. With various monologues and asides the audience was trapped inside the spooky magic. This gives a sense of communion as the Norwegian Midsummer Night’s Dream drama plays out.
Poulsen, played by Danny Lee Wynter, was extremely funny. His lines are riddled with pretentiousness and injected with satirical comedy. He shone, with his self-absorbed and addictive charm. Louise Calf acted movingly as the ingenuous and overlooked Anne, as did Isla Carter, her social-climbing coquettish sister. Infusions of humour were provided by Roddy Maude Roxby as Berg, and Sara Crowe as Mrs Berg, and kept the play light and receptive from the start.
The production successfully developed the core themes of magic, nature, nationalism and mystery. When the punch is spiked by rural goblins, the young characters loosen into their feelings and memories, and the supernatural activities ensue as they barrel down their individual paths of self-discovery. Poulsen’s line: “Every man for himself” certainly rings true. The over-romanticised passages about nature and self-growth are fortified with humorous glances at the audience, which make our involvement in the production even more prominent. Director Anthony Biggs subtly perceives the intricacies of relationships when Poulsen is ranting pretentiously about art, and his love Juliane is deafly intent on squashing a bug. Poulsen exemplifies the bigoted nature that applies to most of the characters, and Danny Lee Wynter plays this well. The only young character not striving for anything seems to be Jorgen – who tries to restore peace among his peers – is played by David Osmond, a talented actor, with a magnificent singing voice and great stage presence. The play explores the relationship each character has with himself, and his relationship with others, nature and wealth, fittingly put by character Birk as “seeing into self”.
The production was laced with nature and music. The goblins were a creepy mechanism for sound, adapting to cello, pianos, French horn and a mixture of percussion instruments accordingly. The smoky second act succumbed to the darkness, and unfortunately grew a little dull. The play turned from jovialities and humour to reflecting, self-loathing and betrayal. It was predictable and a little contrived, and with the tiny stage space, suddenly having eight jostling actors up there seemed overwhelmingly claustrophobic.
From Ibsen to McFarlane to stage and finally to projection, the script goes through many forms of translation and perception. Overall, the play was charming but sometimes monotonous, brilliantly acted but sometimes too satirically indulgent. It was an accomplishment but not a must-see.