A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe
Returning to London’s Globe Theatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the colourful and mystical comedy directed by Pentabus Theatre’s Elle While. The story follows four subplots in Athens, Greece: the wedding of Duke Thesus (Jack Laskey) and Hippolyta (Anne Odeke), a group of Athenian lovers whose relationships are tangled due to mischievous fairies and a group of amateur actors rehearsing a play, which leads to hilarious misunderstandings.
With their marriage condemned by Egeus (Sarah Finigan), Hermia (Francesca Mills) and Lysander (Sam Crerar) run from her father with their friends to escape interference from their families.
The five-act structure ties the chaotic stories together, as While’s mixture of traditional and modern elements provides a contemporary twist to a classic tale of love. Taki’s bright costuming is pleasing to the eye and matches the gorgeous makeup on each actor.
Blocking is prevalent in this production, and is used effectively to elevate each scene. Particularly great is a moment between Helena (Isobel Thom), Lysander and Demetrius (Vinnie Heaven), in which both men profess their love to the bewildered Helena. Thom, a vision in pink, moves with grace and speed across the stage as she tries to escape from her suitors as they chase her. The contrasting pink, green and maroon costumes allow the audience to easily identify each Athenian lover and appreciate the intensity of the love they feel.
While the forest set is very simple, the dazzling musical accompaniment certainly is not: composer James Maloney and musical director Zac Gvi transport us to a transcendent land of fairies and enchantment. The jazzy opening score compared to the whimsical percussion used when magic is present is nothing short of amazing. Zands Duggan’s tuned percussion creates an eerie indication of an interference the lovers have tried so hard to avoid. Without the percussion and jazz sounds at the beginning and climax, the difference between the fairies and the mortals would not be felt.
The dance numbers accompanied by the musical stylings of the saxophone and tuba help the play to feel more like a musical than a dramatic production. The cast move in perfect unison as they link arms and spin in a circle as if they are performing Ring Around the Roses. The stage is filled with gleeful twosomes gallivanting gaily as the show begins and ends with the audience clapping along.
The Mechanicals, though part of a smaller sub-plot, dominate the last act with their exaggerated turn during the play scene. Beautifully intricate props by Paul Williams help to create a hilarious and goofy performance for the duke’s wedding (the lion mask Bottom – played by Mariah Gale – wears whilst roaring at the audience is a highlight and a must-see for anyone who wants to double over). While some scenes are less stellar than others, the ensemble works to immerse the audience in the world of 16th century Athens through audience participation and physical comedy.
Photo: Helen Murray
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 27th April until 12th August 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: