A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe
The playfulness of one of the Bard’s most imaginative pieces of theatre has been wonderfully captured by this year’s Globe production. Raucous, colourful, vibrant, the show is an unbelievable extravaganza, tremendously enjoyable for that well-executed jest and uninhibited wit it provides throughout almost the whole runtime.
With wedding preparations in progress for the union of Theseus (Peter Bourke) and Hippolyta (Victoria Elliott), an outraged Egeus (Nadine Higgin) brings forth and spurns a marriage request from Lysander (Ekow Quartey), a potential suitor in love with his daughter Hermia (Faith Omole), who the father wants to be with Demetrius (Ciarán O’Brien). The runaway of the lovers is interluded by the rehearsal of a group of tradesmen, keen on performing in front of the Duke, while the whims and enchantments of fairies ridicule and become entangled with the events to follow.
The play within the play takes centre stage and easily wins the hearts and the laughs of the majority of the audience. It’s cheeky humour, a comedy of movement, smoothly delivered. One can’t overlook the rousing energy of Jocelyn Jee Esien, taking on a hyperbolic Bottom, impeccably hilarious in every gesture and every word (be it in English or French). Crucial support also comes from Higgin as the badass Quince and Billy Seymour as the absent-minded Flute, not to mention the added comic moment from an audience member dragged into the madness. The other queen of the stage is Elliott as the uninhibited monarch.
A good part of the well-presented, delirious panorama relies on the carnival-style costumes and the brightly decorated, prop-free stage. Stripped of the enchanting elements and electing its flashy personality as the unspoken protagonist, the production is brilliant for its raw approach, staging a show that is boastful but also a lot of fun. The engagement of the audience, with the actors appearing and disappearing in the yard or briefly interacting with the standing theatregoers, finds the right balance to keep the focus on the stage whilst truly making everyone feel included in the performance.
The Hackney Colliery Band couldn’t be missed. The original music by Jim Fortune makes for the right fanfare notes to accompany the show. Extra points should be awarded for the singing sequences – be it the solos of Quartey or the choral lullaby for Titania – and the dancing mood the cast often fall into.
The Globe’s laid-back version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream may have quite a lot of traditionalists turn up their nose for its subversion of standard theatre. But it’s a reinvigorating pageant, celebrating the foolishness and creativity of storytelling. It’s laughter without rambling: an apt example of midsummer entertainment.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 3rd July until 13th October 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the cast in rehearsal here: