A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Waterloo East Theatre
Ushered into the small and intimate Waterloo East Theatre, with only the occasional train above reminding audiences of the outside world, it is difficult not to be spellbound by CandleFire Theatre’s adaption of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The production remains true to Shakespeare’s original script, set in an autumnal wood with three interlocking plots centred around the scandalous elopement of Hermia (Marie Issermann) and Lysander (Robert Fellman). It is when roguish fairies burst through the soil and stumble across Hermia’s sister Helena (Leah Lawry-Johns), who is harshly rejected by Demetrius (Matthew Harrison-James), that the fairies begin their jovial meddling, spurring a whirlwind of magical mishaps and ensuing hilarious suspense.
Puck (Joshua Jewkes), the servant fairy, brilliantly captures the mischief and playful nature of fairy life. Covered in mud and leaves, his bursts with energy, and comical facial expressions provide a refreshing and humorous contrast to his severe and stoic master, the King of the Fairies, Oberon (Martin Sales).
The fairies’ supernatural abilities are effortlessly achieved by director Jaclyn Bradley, who uses the playful creatures’ invisibility ingeniously as a comical device; Puck and Oberon remain onstage throughout, witnessing the follies and chaos that their magic has caused.
Whilst much of the comedy arises from this interplay between fairies and humans, it is the use of modern lines breaking through the old, such as “He’s gone for a piss,” that creates a fully immersive and funny experience from start to finish. Added laughs are provided by the play-within-a-play subplot of a troupe of actors rehearsing in the woods, including a very boastful Bottom (David Gurney) and a hilariously awful Flute (Darren Latham). Both Gurney and Latham dominate the stage in their roles, causing viewers to forget their relatively minor significance in the tale.
Particular applause must also be given to the casting of Helena (Leah Lawry-Johns), who brilliantly captures the “ugly sister”, whose love and desperation for Demetrius’ affection is executed to perfection. Even with a believably awful cold, Leah Lawry-Johns’ delivery is superbly clear, which unfortunately cannot be said for much of the cast.
At times the production is clumsy with too much shouting and chaos, due to the difficult task of juxtaposing so many plots onstage. However, overall, CandleFire Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a superbly well achieved adaption of Shakespeare’s original, grasping the true essence of the fun and jovial nature of magic, with a modern touch.
Photo: Jeanie Jean Photography
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on Waterloo East Theatre from 12th until 23th July, for further information or to book visit here.