Night Dream is one of those plays that is incredibly easy
to do right and surprisingly difficult to make dull and
Custom/Practice’s production treads a very fine line between the
two. The play itself is framed as an after-school detention with
teenagers in uniforms moaning about having to read Shakespeare when
an enigmatic teacher/ Puck snaps his fingers and the action starts.
Unfortunately this framing device is lost in the main body of the
play and ultimately detracts from the obvious flow of the action.
Demetrius and love-sick Helena Naoufal Ousellam and Rebecca
Loudon are evenly matched in wills, which gives an interesting
battle-like quality to their wooing. Both have excellent comic timing
and give wholly convincing performances, which contrasts their
counter-parts Clare McMahon and Daniel Francis-Swaby. As Hermia
McMahon seems bored with her part, delivering her lines in a
monotonous tone, while Francis-Swaby lacks the passion and charisma
needed for the dashing Lysander.
However there are
stand-out performances from Liam Mansfield as Oberon and Lorenzo
Martelli as Bottom. Manfield portrays Oberon as a borderline
psychopathic king, prone to mood swings and gleeful vindictiveness
and Angela Gasparetto’s movement direction gives him an
otherworldly quality. As Bottom Martelli is crudely amiable and has
the audience in hysterics during the mechanicals’ play.
Rosa Maggiora’s set
is simple with metal poles replacing trees against an instragram
style backdrop of a wood. Multi-coloured leaves dance about the stage
and provide bursts of colour, allowing the actors to fully use the
space and kick up an all-mighty fuss.
Although there are
moments of hilarity, the action feels slightly stilted as there are
times when the actors don’t seem to understand exactly what they’re
saying. Rae McKen’s direction shines during the physical comedy
but the play seems to lose direction and fails to say anything new.
At times this production does induce belly-laughter but ultimately it
lacks the bite and sexual tension that is obvious in the text.