Travelling company Footsbarn, now based in France, have brought their big-top back to London for the first time in over 15 years. And at a time when the regional rep system has all but disappeared, to witness an ensemble that have worked together in such close proximity for such a long time is a rare treat.
They tackle A Midsummer Night\'s Dream with the energy of schoolchildren playing with a dressing-up box, throwing ideas around with mixed fortunes. A buck-toothed, pantomimic Bottom is a delight (even if his constant tendency to abandon the text in order to crack contemporary gags wears a little thin), whereas a mask-adorned, skittish Puck who sounds much like a Monty Python knight with a steady barrage of “Ni’s” is not.
But it strikes me that to pick faults in the line delivery (which, due to the melange of international accents, is often indecipherable) is rather pointless, much like trying to critique the Teletubbies. God knows why it works, but it does.
Footsbarn are somewhat showing their age. Lysander and Demetrius look well over 50, and as such their wooing of Helena and Hermia resembles that of a pair of dirty uncles chasing the bridesmaids at a wedding. This is a shame, as it reduces the whole play to a rather wet, cosy and altogether family-friendly affair, bleeding it of any eroticism or, dare I say it, emotion.
But then, as I say, this is a night to leave your snobberies at the canvas door and revel in the sense of shameless Shakespearean celebration. And who knows when Patrick Hayter\'s company, one of the most unique theatrical enterprises this country has produced, will next return to these shores - enjoy them while you can.