Midsummer's Night Dream
Go dance with the fairies
A Britain in which political and personal troubles stalk the land like a plague.
A country in which the nation is no longer certain of who it is, or was.
A place full of mischief-making and shifting loyalties, where individuals are hoodwinked for nefarious purposes and are left wondering if there is any firm ground left at all.
Does this sound like a familiar landscape? If so, it is reflected in a new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now on at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatres.
All our perceptions of a kind of 16th century romcom garlanded by flowers, star-crossed lovers and the making of magic are, in this production, flung aside in favour of a more dystopian interpretation which works brilliantly well.
As director Mike Tweddle notes: “We’ve tried to explore it as we would a brand-new play, discovering the characters’ plights and conflicts as if we’d never met them before.”
Isn’t that so, and especially in the gender and sexual fluidity which weaves the narrative together, giving us new insights into the traditional male/female relationships between Lysander and Hermia and Helena and Demetrius.
With a little narrative tweaking, Shakespeare’s words flow remarkably well through these very 21st century affairs of the heart, and in fact add a lot of arresting dimensionality once a somewhat demonic Puck (Kim Heron) starts to cast her (and it is a ‘her’ here) potions far and wide.
Yet, Shakespeare’s dramatic sensibilities have not been thrown out with the fixed ideas of gender and sexuality.
The ‘play within a play’ that Quince, Bottom and co perform for Theseus and Hippolyta towards the end of the performance has the audience in stitches with its shambling amateurism and self-conscious embarrassment.
After all the intrigue and role-swapping it’s a spot of well-earned light relief. Yet the tension isn’t quite broken…. there is, quite literally, a parting shot…
Rehearsal photo by Mark Dawson
It’s hard to single out individual performances as this is very much an ensemble piece.
For me, it would be Charleen Qwaye (as a noble Hippolyta and lascivious Titania) and Dan Wheeler (Demetrius and a hilarious Flute) but in fact, this exceptionally strong cast demonstrate theatrical teamwork at its finest.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing Bristol Tobacco Factory Theatres until Wednesday, April 6.
For more information click HERE.
Am I dreaming?
PREVIEW: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set to bring blistering heat to our chilly spring at the Tobacco Factory Theatres from Wednesday, February 20.
The 500-year-old comedy, one of the Bard’s most popular, smoothly and hilariously intertwines four plots about love, marriage, magic and fairyland.
With deliciously named characters including Bottom, Puck and Queen Fairy, Titania, audiences can expect the unexpected all expertly staged by the theatres’ Factory Company.
Tobacco Factory Theatres artistic director Mike Tweddle said: “I’m so delighted that we’ll be bringing together a world class ensemble of actors who’ll perform exciting and entertaining plays and play a powerful role in our community engagement activities.
"A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a raucous, razor-sharp exposé of flawed relationships and societal snobbery and a glorious celebration of the fantastical.”
Actors expose hidden agendas, hugely flawed relationships and wild cavorting self-abandonment in the heat of the summer offering a fresh and dynamic interpretation of Shakespeare’s view that ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’.
Lysanda (Evlyne Oyedokun) loves Hermia (Paksie Vernon) but to be together they’ll have to run away.
Demetrius (Dan Wheeler) loves Hermia too, but she loathes him.
Helenus, (Joseph Tweedale), however loves him like to distraction.
Bottom (Heather Williams) and pals have been picked to perform for the newlyweds.
It’s the opportunity of their lives, if only Bottom would stop acting like an ass.
Into this mix swarm vengeful, controlling forest fairies, warring lovers, amateur actors, mind-altering herbs and dangerous desires that make a soap opera look simple.
Brace yourself for fast-paced fun with all the magical beauty of Shakespeare’s language.
Midsummer Night’s Dream begins on Wednesday, February 20 and runs until Wednesday, April 6 with performances at 7.30pm and 2pm matinees.