An all-white set and actors in white tops, long-johns and girdles tells you this is not going to be the standard, arboreal vision of Shakespeare's comedy. And nothing is standard about this production. The all-male cast not only act all the various parts, including the cohort of fairies, but also provide the music and incidental percussion which punctuates the performance, and also act as scene-shifters and, at times, as the scenery itself. The result is an entrancing interpretation of this well-known play.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is perhaps one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. The main storyline concerns young Athenian lovers Hermia and Lysander, a suitor for Hermia's hand, Demetrius, and his admirer, Helena. They find themselves in the forest on midsummer night where the antics of the fairies lead them through disarray to a paring off, and eventually marriage. In a second story, the fairies also play tricks on a group of craftsmen preparing a play for the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Atherns, to Hippolyta. They transform Bottom the Weaver into an ass and Titania the Queen of the Fairies falls in love with him to further her husband, Oberon's, plans.
The cast are all superb in this production and it is hard to single anyone out, though special mention must be made of Bob Barrett who played Bottom, for his timing and command of slapstick comedy. In addition Jon Trenchard's Puck and Richard Clothier's Oberon make wonderfully other-worldly fairies - and Trenchard's double as Starveling is able to bring the house down by doing no more than raising his lantern.
Full use is made of the stage, with Michael Pavelka having dressed the set in white camouflage and creating, amongst other things, a ledge which spans the back wall, made from elaborate garden chairs. It provides a neutral backdrop which perfectly accentuates the strangeness of some of the action.
Edward Hall's direction is fast-paced and wonderfully captivating, especially with his use of 'freeze-frame' and other filmic techniques, and the handling of the broad slapstick scenes is masterful.
All aspects of theatre are at play in this production, sound, visuals, action, innovative additions to the text which enhance the meaning, and some truly wonderful acting. Propeller and The Watermill Theatre have combined to produce a unique take on this classic play which entertains, intrigues and surprises in equal measure.
This enchanting production is touring the country. Make sure you don't miss it!