Monday, 3 December 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream - review

Written by: Lauren Buckley (@LaurenBuckers)

Blue Elephant Theatre, London

A Midsummer Night’s Dream with no Puck is like a light with no bulb; it just can’t work…or can it? That was my first question upon realising that only four Sprites and no famous imp appeared in the cast list of Lazuras Theatre’s production of The Dream at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. This was not the only change to the script of this stylishly modern interpretation of one of the Bard’s most well-known plays but my first clue that this was going to be a very different adaptation of the play.

Photo: Adam Trigg
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a tale of love, misunderstandings and magic and follows the lives of four young lovers. Lysander (Joseph Tweedale) and Hermia (Julie Gilby) are not allowed to wed so are forced to run away to the forest, and are followed by Hermia’s friend Helena (Ewa Jaworksi) who is unrequitedly besotted with Demetrius (Stuart Mortimer) and in the same forest a group of mechanicals are rehearsing for a play: a world of fairies and magic dwell.

Overall the interpretation of this much-loved classic is a brave one that works. Set in a modern day Athens, the cast don modern, simple and colourful dress as the play starts at a busy dinner party with a full ensemble on stage, which creates a very loud and exciting atmosphere. The staging throughout is interesting yet simple: strategically placing chairs to create the forest, and snow falling from the ceiling to mark the first transition to the fairy kingdom all helps to highlight the importance of seasons within the play too. This play is typically classed as a comedy but in this case director Ricky Dukes takes a darker, more serious approach seeing the fairy land as a place of shadows and darkness, making a very clear distinction between reality and magic, highlighted by Alex Musgrave’s unassuming lighting design. The use of the whole ensemble to move from scene to scene creates an effortless flow, which is a pleasure to watch, making use of the whole space effectively.

Photo: Adam Trigg
The four lovers worked beautifully together, particularly in the fight scene which is well choreographed and slickly executed, seeing the four move around the space at a constant distance from each other highlighting the importance of Shakespeare’s words as no physical contact is made.  James Thomas’s Bottom is delightfully obnoxious, providing most of the laughs throughout the play; however the mechanicals in this case are portrayed as a group of posh polo-neck wearing amateurs and generally feel underused due to cuts made in the script. Their play within the play is simply a sequence of tableaux, which, whilst funny, makes the production feel somewhat lacking. Similarly, it seems at points the visual spectacle is more important than the plot itself, as many stories seem unfinished. The fairies, again, create lovely scenic images and their movement is sensual; they add to the darker tone of the play but at times lack a little characterisation.

If a night of purist Shakespeare is what you want then this isn’t necessarily for you, but this is a well-crafted interpretation of the play from a strong ensemble, in which the shadows definitely haven’t offended. 

This production runs until 15 December 2012. 
@BETCamberwell @LazarusTheatre

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