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A Midsummer Night's Dream (Guildford)

If you think you've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream before, Propeller's new production at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre will make you think again

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
James Tucker and Chris Myles
© Dominic Clemence

A Midsummer Night's Dream is such a staple for English Literature syllabuses and bad audition speeches that it is often easy to forget just how excellent a play it actually is. And thank goodness that companies such as Propeller are around to really explore its full potential.

The all male company once again knock it out of the park. Bringing together twisted visuals, modern flourishes and a refreshing adaptation of the script, Propeller manage to make one of the staples in British theatre seem new and exciting once again.

Director Edward Hall sifts through the cutesy magic that is so often associated with the play and brings out the dark and sometimes sinister nature of one of Shakespeare's best loved comedies.

These fairies are no sugar plums as in The Nutcracker ballet; instead, they twist and turn with the wind and watch the mortals in an indifferent and mocking way.

Hall brings out the strength of Propeller's ensemble cast and Michael Pavelka's designs enforce this, with the male cast in marionette puppet style make-up and loose corsets. Similarly, Benn Ormerod's lighting and David Gregory's sound create an eerie and otherworldly atmosphere which the actors fully embrace.

One of the joys of watching Propeller is that they never veer into pantomime-dame territory when cast in female roles. Both Matthew McPherson as Hermia and Richard Pepper as Helena keep their voices strong and bring out the femininity in their characters through subtle gestures, rather than squeaky-voice stereotypes.

As king and queen of the fairies, Darrell Brockis and James Tucker bring steely authority to their roles. The spiteful as well as spritely nature of the fairy realm rests firmly with Joseph Chance's Puck.

The mechanicals' performance at the end of the play has always been game for sport and Propeller don't let the audience down. The fantastic comic timing and boundless energy have the audience roaring with laughter.

If you think you've seen A Midsummer's Night Dream, think again. Propeller will twist your expectations, having you in stitches and looking over your shoulder for mischievous fairies on your way home.

- Roz Carter