A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe
The reopening of all performing arts venues is a cause for celebration in itself, and spirits were high at Shakespeare’s Globe as the venue hosted its first production after the long break enforced by the government. New safety protocols include the absence of an interval, distanced seats in the theatre’s yard (where audiences through history have famously watched plays standing), with the seated ticketholders spaced out, as well the number of spectators overall reduced to about a third of the venue’s full capacity.
The chosen play to kick off the action is the 2019 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Sean Holmes. Visually, it sits somewhere between a colourful fiesta and a rave party. Piñatas and carnivalesque decorations are oddly juxtaposed with neon and sequin-dominant outfits. The story is of Hermia and Lysander, who are in love but whose union is opposed by Hernia’s father, who wants her to marry Demetrius, who is in turn courted by Hermia’s friend Helena. They all end up in the woods, where a group of “mechanicals” are rehearsing a play, and fairies start to meddle with their affairs.
Unfortunately, the production is missing the most wonderful and defining element of the play: magic. The relations between characters are not believable as there is no chemistry nor sense of closeness between any of them. Puck the sprite is played by various actors donning a white T-shirt with the character’s name written on it, but the splitting of one of the most remarkable roles in the play only disperses its presence and magnetism. The play within the play performed by the mechanicals, Pyramus and Thisbe, stands out for its hilarity, and Sophie Russell generally steals the show as Bottom.
The Globe’s version is certainly boisterous but it doesn’t do the text justice. The delivery of lines goes from overdone to sometimes lacking verve. There is little dynamism when it comes to movement, too. This is especially felt in the first scene when the four lovers present their dilemma, or when characters are on stage but not directly involved in the action. The lack of nuanced gestures and expressive vocal intonations demands extra effort from the audience to get into a story that usually draws people right in.
Although this adaptation somewhat blunts the play, it is nevertheless a joyful event because the Globe and Shakespeare inevitably provoke excitement and provide experiences that are inherently enriching.
Photos: Tristram Kenton
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 27th May until 30th October 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.