Literature student, born and raised in South-East London - compulsive writer, art lover, and self-confessed history geek.
Laughter and enchantment at Kingston's Rose Theatre
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has arrived at Kingston's Rose Theatre, directed by Edward Hall and produced by Propeller, an all-male touring theatre company specializing in Shakespeare productions. A Midsummer Night's Dream is arguably one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, mainly due to its spellbinding atmosphere and its tendency towards mayhem. Set in an enchanted forest, the play tells the tales of three groups of characters: four wealthy young lovers, a band of mischievous fairies, and a gaggle of actors rehearsing a play for a grand Athenian wedding ceremony. Blending fantasy and reality, Shakespeare weaves the three narratives together, reveling in enchantment, romantic entanglement and comedic chaos.
I must confess that this was my first experience of seeing Shakespeare performed on stage, although knowing the story very well meant that I knew what to expect in terms of plot; this is perhaps one of the perks of watching such a familiar Shakespearean play, particularly as the language may be slightly problematic for Shakespeare virgin. Settling into my seat at the Rose Theatre, I was aware of the audible anticipation surrounding me, as everyone excitedly flicked through their brochures and gazed at the stage. When the lights went out and the crowd silenced, we were greeted with a series of harmonies from the cast, all dressed in white and each playing their own harmonica. The set was elegantly whimsical, with a white iron balcony of chairs surrounding the stage, draped with a lace-like white fabric; the frame also included bursts of climbing ivy, which added to the charming scene.
The actors, adorned in quasi-pantomime make-up and costumes, were energetic and eloquent in their delivery of lines, making for a thrilling show, even if some of the dialogue was a little too fast-paced for those less acquainted with Shakespeare than a literature scholar. The characters of Helena and Hermia stood out for their over-dramatic femininity, despite the fact that aside from the addition of skirts, their appearance was decidedly masculine; in fact, the pair were somewhat reminiscent of Cinderella's ugly sisters! Their exaggerated expressions witnessed a great deal of laughs, particularly during their jealous squabble with Demetrius and Lysander in the second act of the play; hurling insults and wrestling across the stage floor, the four characters mirrored the typical chaos of Shakespearean comedies, resulting in a literal roar of laughter from the audience. In addition to this scene, the rest of the production was endlessly comical, providing light-hearted relief from the heavy language. The play also used moments of song and dance to bring the drama to life, allowing the stage to become a real spectacle.
The basics of the production consisted of self-made sound effects and magical lighting in hues of pink and blue, which illuminated the enchantment of the play and deciphered between the magical and the realistic. The play's magical current was further emphasised by the frequent use of glitter (or fairy dust), which spoke to my inner-child, and gave the production a whimsical edge. Overall, I would argue that Propeller's A Midsummer Night's Dream is the most captivating play I've ever seen on stage. It was aesthetically pleasing, amounting to gasps of wonder amongst the audience, and its comic moments had me in fits of laughter; I left feeling like I wanted to watch it again and again!