Snuggled in the heart of Covent Garden, the garden of St. Paul’s Church makes for a charming site for a Shakespearean rom-com. The setup for this show by Sophia Pardon – flags, lights, banners, flowers and even a pop-up bar serving themed drinks, get the audience to buckle up for a breezy adventure. They can’t buckle up for too long, though, as this promenade performance gets the audience up and moving across several locations through the show.
This Shakespeare-meets-90s-high-school adaptation of the beloved play by Sara Aniqah Malik is planned chaos! The basic storyline is the same; lovers entangled in a triangle get further muddled by the intervention of an obnoxious fairy king until some fairy dust again brings them to a happy ending. Was it all a dream just before the school prom? Will the team of misfit actors win the regionals? As the mesh between the Bard and high school gets weirder, the plot is sometimes lost. The abrupt end leaves the audience less enchanted than when they first entered.
The show moves across four spaces; a delicately decorated canopy for the introduction, the foyer for the school, the inside of the church for the prom and an in- the-round forest in the garden. The audience is guided swiftly to traverse across spaces with the company, without affecting the show flow or energy. The distinctly set spaces and energetic entries support the promenade style of the show. The audience is also invited to actively perform by getting onto stage and sometimes playing characters and this too is handled in a sensitively yet lively manner. The young audience members seem to enjoy these invitations the most!
Is it a children’s show, then? Although not particularly marketed as one, the tone and quality seem to be geared towards younger audiences. The movement direction by Kwami Odoom is imaginative and fluid, however, the cast seems to hold back on its execution. The music is ambitious in its remix but doesn’t always quite land. However, the show brilliantly reflects how Iris theatre supports young and emerging artists and holds much potential to be further realised into a more mature production.
This production promises to be enchanting and magical in its marketing and space setup, but it falls short once the performance begins. If you’re looking for an impeccable and slick evening of theatre, this might not be where you go. But if you’re looking for light-hearted entertainment and an easy going watch on a summer evening, this show will give you drinks, laughs and familiar tunes to tap along to! And did I mention, the quaint venue with a delightful set?
Playing until 13th August, https://iristheatre.com/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream-3
Reviewer: Aditi Dalal
Reviewed: 6th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★