I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
My debut poetry pamphlet is available at wildpressedbooks.com/david-keyworth.html
Did Shakespeare ever encounter a fractious hen party in a glittery nightclub, with I Believe in Miracles on its playlist? This is the take on A Midsummer Night's Dream staged at Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre, until 16th October.
The emphasis is on energy and the intoxicating chaos of the plot. At times I felt that the clarity of the verse speaking was sacrificed for the sake of pace. But there are several performances which do justice to Shakespeare's poetry whilst also delivering vivid characterisation.
Lori Nicholson as Helena. Photo courtesy of Hope Mill Theatre.
In particular, Gemskii's dominatrix-like teasing of the audience and Lori Nicholson's earnest but sincere laments of Helena's unrequited love. Her dancefloor battle with Hermia (Izzy McKenty) to the accompaniment of Don't Cha by the Pussycat Dolls is a particular highlight.
The soundtrack ranges from Destiny's Child to The Beatles and The Fall. The lighting design by Tom Sutcliffe and sound design by Eliyana Evans add to the sense of disorientation and the loudness itself seems appropriate given the venue's origins as a Fustian Weaving and Cotton Spinning Mill.
For me, the play-within-the-play by the rude mechanicals is the weakest part of A Midsummer Night's Dream and snags on the main action. Other audience members seemed to enjoy the jokes more, but I feel as though Shakespeare was spoofing a particular style of amateur production he may have seen many times but we are not familiar with.
Maz Hedgehog as Titania, Karen Henthorn as Bottom. Photo courtesy of Hope Mill Theatre.
Overall, this production, on an unseasonably warm night, felt like a big bottle of Prosecco exploding after being held back for a special occasion. The ad-libbed lines included direct reference to Covid-19 and being 'doubled jabbed'. The venue was sold out and those present included Julie Hesmondhalgh and other accomplished ex Coronation Street actors.
We can only use our imaginations when it comes to the question of what Shakespeare would have thought of this version, directed by Kate Colgrave Pope. He would have been familiar with all-male casts but it is extremely unlikely he would have seen an all-female cast, as is the case here.
Hopefully, though he would have enjoyed it as being in the joyful spirit of his original dream and evidence of the theatre taking flight again after being caged by a virulent plague.