“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
I am no expert on Elizabethan literature, but I am pretty sure that Shakespeare did not write his pieces to be read aloud in monotone voices in stuffy, beige classrooms, at 3pm on a Thursday.
I know so many people who are put off seeing a Shakespearean play because of their experiences of being forced to study them at school. I also know people who feel they wouldn’t be able to follow it, because of the archaic words and rhymes, and confusing plotlines.
I urge anyone who feels like they fit into the above categories to think again, and go and see Shakespeare performed as it should be: with wit and imagination.
One of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, and one of my favourites, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has arrived at Nuffield Southampton Theatres .
This classic play has a plot full of love triangles, magic, and confusion. Four lovers’ lives are turned topsy-turvy by meddling fairies, and a man is transformed into an irresistible ass, all while a play is being performed within the play. It sounds confusing but once the action kicks off, it’s very easy to follow.
This production brings Shakespeare screeching into the 21st century, combining stand-up comedy, slapstick, and live music with the original words of Will himself. It is 1 hour and 50 minutes of utterly brilliant madness and mayhem and truly ensures that the comedy is not lost; there is no dry performance here.
In fact, the show had me pretty much crying with laughter from start to finish. With an unusual opening (if you see it, you’ll know) I wasn’t sure what to expect next, but I knew I wouldn’t be bored, or lost, or confused.
The cast is fantastic, with boundless energy and talent. They are skilled at classic visual comedy and subtle wit while maintaining passion and true character. I loved each cast member and want to praise all of them. However, my stand-out favourites include Harry Jardine’s Oberon, king of the fairies, who is a brilliantly hapless superhero in alarmingly tight blue lyrca and fetching bum-bag. Kayla Meikle as Puck is subtle, sassy and perfectly mischievous as she takes great pleasure in creating chaos around her. George Fouracres is our compere for the night as Quince, and is sharp, exasperated and ties the whole show up in a wry little bow.
As I say, however, every member of the cast shines and creates a fast-paced production which, I am pretty sure, wouldn’t be the same without each and every one of them. You can read more about the full fantastic cast on the show’s website. Shout out to Alan, too, who makes quite the lion, and Matt’s uncanny Jennifer Lawrence impression.
The whole thing is pure chaos. Old-school slapstick, food fights, audience interaction, a set that gets battered and bruised, and a surprise around every corner. The format is wild and unpredictable and really reflects the magical mayhem contained within the play’s original pages.
Although I am pretty sure William Shakespeare didn’t imagine his plays being performed by a man in lycra and a woman in dungarees, with squirty cream flying everywhere and a fully formed rock band, I also have no doubt that this is how he would have wanted his work to be shared and enjoyed over 500 years later.
Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre have got it absolutely spot on. Shakespeare’s work – at least the comedies – should just be side-splittingly silly and pure, riotous, marvellous fun, just as Bill intended; except this time, with more flying and food fights.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre until Saturday 5th May. Visit the website to find out more and book your tickets.
The show is then being taken on the rest of its UK tour; find out where it’s off to next.
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I was invited to review this performance, but as always all views are honest and completely my own.