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Ill Met by Moonlight (tour – St Albans)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Moon Fool’s Ill Met by Moonlight takes the fairy scenes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – which in any case have elements of nightmare as well as pleasant fantasy about them – and by so moving them out of context throws them centre-stage. The only mortal involved then becomes Bottom in his transfigured guise, which is in any case the result of magic. The orphaned child over whose ownership the initial quarrel between Titania and Oberon developed, is merely a photograph, such as one might find on a gravestone.

All of which leaves Puck as very much the master of ceremonies. Slightly sinister and wholly elfish, Peter Swaffer-Reynolds starts by chatting up the audience and ends as the manipulator of both his apparent rulers. Ian Morgan’s direction makes much use of music and movement which suggests the aerial acrobats of creatures which are not of this earth. Lighting designer Paul Colley and production designer Katherina Radeva add to the eerie atmosphere in which an illuminated drum is indeed a girdle round about the earth.

Anna-Helena McLean is a wilful Titania, ferocious in her obsessions, first with her changeling boy, then with Bottom in his ass’s head (and other overdeveloped parts) and finally in her revulsion when she awakes to a clearer vision. Christopher Sivertsen is a wily but lordly Oberon and equally revels in the sheer silliness of Bottom. All three performers play the musical instruments strategically placed around the acting area; the sounds are as haunting as the words and gestures in this context.

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