For this production, it is all about the 60’s. Shakespeare’s traditional script and beautiful use of language is maintained, whilst Thacker plays on the notion of a swinging society, versus a strict military regime of the Greek colonels and their repression of liberation.
The idea could not be more perfectly suited to the text. In the Courts of reality, where Theseus and Hippolyta rule, there is a real feeling of the banal. Dull colours, fixed physical postures and strict rules allude to the rigidity and power of Papadopoulos. In contrast, the stunning set of the forest, full of neon colours, bright lanterns, crazy stairs and poles (not to mention the vast amount of different sized balls you find in a children’s play area!) evokes a sense of the inner psyche, far more reminiscent of the sixties sex and drug culture.
Nonetheless, although Ashley Shairp has done a fabulous job with the set, it does sometimes distract from the narrative and characters. Its psychedelic quirkiness is so captivating that, particularly in the first half, it can divert audience attention.
In a similar paradox, the actor’s use of space is extremely impressive. Yet, for anybody sitting on the balcony, a lot of important movement is lost when characters perform around the audience in the stalls.
The four main lovers, Hermia (Rosie Jones), Helena (Vanessa Kirby), Demetrius (Jake Norton) and Lysander (Nick Underwood) have a youthful energy and connection that is wonderful to watch. Their many chases and struggles with love are thoroughly entertaining and visually captivating. Kirby (winner of the BIZA award at the MEN theatre awards) especially, has that special spark that makes you watch her every movement.
Puck is a character who will always cause debate. Some see him as older and wiser. For me, Puck, who is described as a ‘hobgoblin’, is young and mischievous. Leo Atkin has wanted the part for 25 years and he undoubtedly performed it well. Yet, he lacked the energy and spirit that I feel the character needs. Physically, he reminded me of dancer and choreographer Wayne Sleep (it’s just a shame that he did not have his nimble feet!)
Furthermore, if you are thinking of taking children, bear in mind that I did not leave the theatre until 11pm. The young boy next to me was far more fascinated in the way UV lighting was affecting his white shirt by the denouement of the play!
All in all, this is a passionate, gripping and humorous version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with standout performances from Kieran Hill (as Bottom), Russell Dixon (as Peter Quince) and, of course, the multi-talented music fairy, Carol Sloman. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, find the romance within you and head towards the intimate Bolton Octagon- as this Dream is well worth going to see!
- Rebecca Cohen.