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A Midsummer Night's Dream (tour -Guildford, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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  A Midsummer’s 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.

The head-strong 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.


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