Elle While presents a vibrant, new production of the widely performed, if not widely loved play. With a few contemporary references thrown in and some of the original text being reinterpreted for modern times, the show feels like a fresh chaotic riot. It is amazing how many versions of the same play can be created!
The bright costumes by takis keep the Elizabethan spirit alive and the specific colours for each character help even novices keep track of the changing affections between the lovers. The boisterousness of the costumes is carried through in the movement direction by Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster. The cast seems to be in a two and half hour long party, with everyone in a highly intoxicated but slickly controlled state, springing off the magnanimous stage.
But all is not bright and shiny as this production boldly takes on the dark undertones of the play. For example, Francesca Mills who plays Hermia has dwarfism, so the slurs about her height hit differently. The audience often responded with genuine gasps each time violent, ableist, misogynistic or racist comments were made, showing the production’s awareness of these themes in the writing and not shying away from bringing them to light. The show made a good example of staying true to a classic text while dealing with its problematic content head-on.
One of the highlights was the cheeky Puck, played by the Globe’s artistic director, Michelle Terry, eliciting giggles every time she spoke or even moved. Mariah Gale as Nick Bottom brought a spunky yet humane flavour to the character and her dialogue interspersed with a donkey’s bray left the audience in splits. The whole cast worked brilliantly as an ensemble and the full embodiment of their characters didn’t draw much attention to the gender fluid casting.
Why Shakespeare continues to be so widely staged baffles me. Sure, his plays can be played around with and adapted in countless ways; there is merriment and tomfoolery in the comedies which makes for light-hearted entertainment and the glamour of sitting in a beautiful theatre with such history makes one forget how uncomfortable the seating actually is or what mood the weather decides to take on. But in the present times, with the abundance of various kinds of literature, past and contemporary, what is it about the Bard that keeps audiences coming back for more? Is it simply the name ‘Shakespeare’ and the legacy it carries?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running at Shakespeare’s Globe until 12th August 2023. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/
Reviewer: Aditi Dalal
Reviewed: 25th May 2023
North West End UK Rating: