A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe online
Somewhat miraculously, summer 2020 is upon us. For those of us not ready, thanks to the Globe’s streaming series, we can soak up the levity and charm of a 2013 production and cast our sights back to a time where the biggest question on people’s minds was who decided The Great Gatsby needed to be shown in 3D. This week’s instalment is director Dominic Dromgoole’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Excellently delivered one-liners enforce the play’s comic timelessness, effortless charm, and ability to spark joy no matter the circumstances in which you are watching it.
Truthfully, the familiar plot unfurls rather traditionally. The costumes are Renaissance in style. The staging is sparse. As such, the audience is tasked with imagining the fantastical fairy world set between the iconic red pillars of the Globe’s stage. Dromgoole devises a sense of the darkness of the world – as well as the sexual tension lurking beneath the surface – as the tangled lovers descend into the furthest recesses of the forest and their opulent dress is replaced by bare mud-smeared chests and ragged attire. And yet the play remains consistently light and funny. Its intriguing charm emanates not necessarily from distress caused by Titania and Oberon’s squabbles, but rather their attempts to cause distress directly.
There are a series of great pairings in the production, though few compare to the dynamic between Oberon (John Light) and Puck (Matthew Tennyson), who balance one another spectacularly. Tennyson’s entire body fidgets manically as he casts his spells, countered by Light’s intensity, which is captured in his slow transitions between yoga postures. (With his bare chest and perfectly manicured facial hair, Light’s characterisation seems to parody a hyper-sexual yoga teacher.) The modern underpinnings of the play are likewise evoked by Pearce Quigley, who immediately steals the show as Bottom. He brings a diva’s disposition to the play within a play and quickly wins over his audience in his excuses for lateness, “[His] cock-a-doodle-didn’t”. Annoyingly, though, the female roles aren’t granted the same comic space to play with the audience’s heart.
All in all, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delightful way to start off your summer season and is a fairly accessible production to indulge in a little (much needed) Shakespearean levity.
Photo: John Haynes