When putting on a Shakespeare production, how do you please both purists yet give audiences something truly original? Ask the Lyric Hammersmith and Filter because their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is the craziest take I have ever seen, but it still manages to make you laugh out loud and is really accessible.
The show opens with stand up comedy as host Ed Gaughan pokes fun at everything from Kate Middleton, soap opera actors and the audience. His wit is fast and furious and sets the scene for what it to come next - as his act is unpredictable and off the wall, yet he acts as a link between A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Royal Exchange. I could have watched him all night. In the play itself, his impression of Al Pacino reading a section of the text as if he is over acting in Scent of A Woman - is inspired and priceless.
If you sit within the stage level area, be prepare to get involved within the narrative. Like the brilliant You Can't Take It With You (the Exchange Christmas production) - the audience are as much a part of the show as the actors themselves. We were promised a guest star from Lord of the Rings and although many believed Mr McKellen would turn up, those in tune with Filter's wild and wacky humour were more prepared for a standby in the guise of a member of the 'audience.'
Sean Holmes direction is assured and brave as elements of the original text have been tweaked and there are many new additions but the meaning is never lost. One scene involving a battle features characters as gamers and reminded me of Scott Pilgrim Vs the World which is an excellent way of getting young people into the narrative and it's also very funny.
Lyric Hammersmith and Filter's take on Shakespeare's most whimsical text is anarchic, romantic, and zany. It's as if Keith Lemmon has rewritten it and bought in spandex, Tiswas style food fights, Barry White songs and love making in a festival tent.
Some scenes do stretch the joke a tad too far, relying on the goodwill of the audience to carry them through. Yet despite this, all of the performers and musicians all play a part in creating something quite brilliant at the Royal Exchange this Summer which means the young will never get bored with The Bard.