Productions of this play at Regent’s Park have always been audience–friendly; the focus has been very much on entertainment rather than any deeper interpretation of the sexuality or the darker themes of the play. This revival of Ian Talbot’s 2004 production is no exception: in fact, if anything this year’s version is even more of a romp than its predecessor. The sexual innuendo in the play (and there’s a lot) is skated over and the sexuality of the young lovers is certainly underplayed.
Set in the Edwardian court of Theseus (for some unspecified reason, the mechanicals are waiting around while Theseus gives his nuptials speech), the rivals for Hermia’s affections are presented in contrasting ways: Simon Partridge’s Demetrius as an upright army officer, while Dominic Marsh’s Lysander is a young fop, giving reason for Egeus’s objections.
The curious lack of sexuality is extended to the relationship between Titania and Oberon. Sirine Saba’s Titania has a bit of spark, but Stephen Pacey’s rather dreary Oberon would probably make Titania wistfully dream of asses even after the charm had been lifted.
In his programme notes, Talbot talks about the scary fairies but while the shaven heads and the bovver boots had some shock value two years ago, there’s no sense of any accompanying malevolence this time. Gerard Carey’s Puck is a cheeky chappie but certainly not the figure of dread that the text speaks about.
The comedy from the play should come from the mechanicals and, again, they produce amusement without the audience being in any danger of dislocating their jaws. John Hodgkinson doesn’t quite have the comic touch of his predecessor Russ Abbott, but does have a sure way as the temperamental star of the amateur company – every theatre group has one.
This is a perfect production for a summer’s evening: it’s unchallenging but entertaining; although personally I prefer my Dreams to be a bit darker.
- Maxwell Cooter