A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre Review


Posted 2024-02-16 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Tue 13 Feb 2024 - Sat 30 Mar 2024

BBC Ghosts star Mathew Baynton leads this new Royal Shakespeare Company(RSC) production using his comedic talents to play vain aspiring actor Bottom. There's a twinkle of something special from the get-go with a 1980s vibe about it all.

This new A Midsummer Night's Dream at the RSC runs in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until March 30. Directing is Eleanor Rhode, who was behind the RSC's refreshing recent female-led version of King John with Rosie Sheehy as the monarch. Sheehy is back to play Puck in this new production but unfortunately was unable to perform when I saw it on press night.

Rhode has added a fresh take to this popular comedy. Although frequently performed, she's managed to make it feel so fresh and different. First of all, the set is breathtaking, conjuring up the magic of the fairy world with illuminated balls that change colour high above the stage, shown in the picture above. There's a screen backdrop that illuminates too for many supernatural moments in the fairy kingdom.

The clothing harks back to 1980s romantics and Oberon, King of the Fairies, looks like an Adam Ant wanna-be with actor Bally Gill made up with punkish hair and bohemian white shirt. His queen Titania, played by Sirine Saba, sports a boob tube and fluorescent pink jumpsuit. Even Bottom is channelling Paul Weller in his sharp suit, shown below.

Elfin understudy Premi Tamang filled in as suitably sprightly Puck and was a delight. Puck's entrance brings the start of many clever little fairy tricks. Mannequins in the tailor's workshop move of their own accord and later people start floating under her power. It all feels so special and cleverly choreographed but that also comes from the production hiring its own illusion director John Bulleid.

Alongside the magic is always the comedy. It's a laugh a minute production with a pace that skips along beautifully. Horrible Histories star Baynton, making his RSC debut as Bottom, is a joy and has the audience in the palm of his hand with every well-timed look and grin.

Even when turned into an ass, every move of his huge donkey's ears raises chuckles in this bright new version. He's got Bottom's self-obsessed vanity down to a tee.

The donkey ears, shown above, are just one of many inspired moments of this exciting Midsummer Night's Dream. Another is during the forest chaos of Athens lovers Demetrius, Lysander, Helena and Hermia (Nicholas Armfield, Ryan Hutton, Boadicea Ricketts and Dawn Sieverwright respectively) are chased around the forest by Puck.

It all ends superbly with dozens of multicoloured balls dumped on top of Demetrius from the sky. It's one of the funniest and unexpected things I've seen on stage in a long while.

There's a vibrant energy around these four lovers who've become entangled with the magical world. Their bickerings are youthful and fun for all ages while Hutton as Lysander is a live wire, springing around stage in a passionate physical performance, pictured below.

It's Bottom and his rustic friends who ultimately steal the show with a finale of their amateur dramatic production of Pyramus and Thisbe. It's suitably hilarious but with a touch of adult jokes around the placement of hands and lips on the wall that Pyramus and Thisbe speak through. It's carefully crafted comedy made to look effortless and takes the audience along with it, hooting out loud.

In true 1980s style, there's even an electric synth keyboard used for dramatic effect and even more funny is the rustic actor playing 'the moon' with a flashlight.

From beginning to end, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a truly magical standout show from the RSC. It goes big on the comedy but is also a spectacular visual delight. It's pure indulgent joy and a must-see.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Tickets cost from £8 to £69.50 from the RSC website here .
Running time is 2 hrs 50 mins including a 20 mins interval.

278017 - 2024-02-14 18:05:44


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