A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe
Artistic director Emma Rice kicks off Wonder Season at the Globe with a reworking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that leaves the audience cheering for more. Puck’s observation “what fools these mortals be” could not be truer of the play: it is hilarious and raucous – at one point Puck kisses a member of the audience, Theseus hands out shots to the crowd and Titania forces a panic-stricken man to untie her shoe. The mystical interweaves with the comic and the poignant. Whilst purists will probably not appreciate the major changes made (Helena becomes Helenus, neon lighting and amps are installed in the theatre), it is important to remember that Shakespeare tried to be modern and relevant for his age, and that appears to be Rice’s aim too.
How then, is the “wonder” achieved in the play? The clash between the modern lovers and the fairy world of Shakespeare’s time emerges in the set: the Globe is decorated with bright lights and huge balloons. It is a living dialogue with the past. A bhangra-like beat, with sitar sounds on top, often accompanies the action and adds to the mysticism and cultural hybridity of the performance; actors often descend from the rafters of the theatre. As the evening progresses and the play delves deeper into enchanted love affairs, the natural light slides into the rich golds, purples and reds of the theatre lighting, which is perhaps one of the most enchanting aspects of the production.
As far as acting goes, Meow Meow is an enthralling Titania, dominating the stage bringing passion and charisma to the role. Few people can make singing into a flower so sophisticated. Ankur Bahl makes Helenus modern. He is ostensibly camp at points – he sings Single Ladies complete with dance moves – and at other times his unaffected directness is poignantly moving. Katy Owen, clad in an Elizabethan doublet, hot-pants and ruff, and squirting the audience with her water pistol, is the closest an audience could get to a living fairy. She pesters the crowd and at no point does she break character.
This is the year of Shakespeare: two weeks ago saw the Southbank bustling with people to celebrate 400 years since his death, and with this hilarious and highly engaging production the Bard continues to enthrall us all. The Globe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream aims to “rock the ground” and it succeeds.
Photos: Steve Tanner
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Shakespeare’s Globe from 30th April until 11th September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch Emma Rice talk about the production here: