Review of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: “The right delusion”

Fairy tale chaos inundates the Globe with the return of Shakespeare’s most whimsical comedy. Guillermo Nazara shares his thoughts on this new production bringing back one of the author’s most popular plays, to let us know if the company should have kept their feet on the ground.

The course of true love never did run smooth. It’s fairly clear that Shakespeare liked it rough… When it comes to his plotlines – obviously. Anyway (let’s take a much needed deep breath), the thing is that Midsummer‘s back, both with it story and to its roots (no pun intended, Puck, be cool). Following the Globe’s latest (and much necessary) trend of historically-evocative productions, the spirits of nature have materialized again on the boards of the open-air theatre, in an enticing montage properly balancing traditional staging with the right amount of modern tweaks.

Shakespeare’s undeniable genius seemed to shy away, to some extent, when it came the time to pound out humour. Queens never make it easy anyway – all kinds of them. Just as with Comedy of Errors, his comedic skills do not at all compare to his effortless ability to make our souls bleed through a dagger of words and feels. He was funny… ish. But this sort of writing has not aged as well as the heart-piercing tragedies that rose his name to the upmost glory.

Now that my pomposity has reached nasty friendless critic standards, I should also acknowledge that the piece has remained as an audience fave – performed by professional and amateur companies alike as well as becoming a reference for school reads… that is, of course, until the State of Florida decides to burn it. Its intermingled absurd liaison narrative explains why. It does provide us with an engaging story that, despite some scenes seeming overdeveloped, can still guarantee a journey of both amusement and a bit of self-discovery.

Elle White’s approach conserves the classical essence of the material while trying to solve some of the problems that implies. To some extent, the material is updated with new comedy focused, primarily, on the delivery. Despite some minor tweaks on the lines, the play is maintained pretty much in its original form. But more camp is included through blocking and the way the lines are delivered, whether that implies declamation or some absurd operatic screeching (always delightful for a good dramatic death, nonetheless).

All in all, the whole interpretation functions correctly – thanks, also, to Paul Williams’s astute set design, keeping a seamless integration between the venue’s transcendent architecture and the few but well-chosen props that help bring out the play’s multiverse. Much in the style of the Globe’s productions, this rendition also counts on a live orchestra – but a more contemporary take has been given to the score (credit to James Maloney), which though still charming, fails to induce the chimeric vibe the show would require.

The cast is, by far, this version’s strongest trait. All portraying their roles with sufficient promise and determination, Jack Laskey receives the highest mention for his performance of Theseus in particular (his credit also including Oberon), playing the character with glamour and subtle comicality. On the other hand, Francesca Mills gives a compelling, sensitive depiction of Hermia, while Mariah Gale ignites a few honest cackles through her eccentric rendering of Bottom.

In spite of Shakespeare not being a master of comedy, the significance of this work is undeniable, both for its dramatic value as well as its gentle (though still not fully realized) handling of the English language. In a similar way, this montage serves its purpose competently enough – presenting, in general, a candid homage to one of the titles The Bard is most often associated with. Who knows? Some of you may puck-le up for a chef’s kiss by the end.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All pictures credit to Helen Murray.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream plays at London’s Shakespeare’s Globe until 12 August. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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