Unfolds Theatre pull the audience on a high-speed ride through A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Rose Playhouse on Bankside. Running at ninety minutes with no interval the performance makes significant cuts to Shakespeare’s text but retains important lines, plot points and characters to create a fun and fruity adaptation.
The performance starts with a mildly awkward pre-show demonstration of circus tricks which serve to draw the audience in for the interactivity that will be required of them in the restricted space. There is some good use of the original Rose site as both backdrop and occasional stage. It’s a cavernous archaeological space made up with fairy lights and inflatables that resembles the Penguin’s underground lair.
With all the effort put into the fairground setting the lack of imagination in dressing up Bottom the donkey feels disappointing and the cuts are most noticeable in her romance with Titania. Fortunately Sydney Aldridge has plenty of fun giving Bottom the human a distinct and contemporary style including a spectacular multi-layered ‘death’ scene. The occasional modern asides help keep the action engaging although some of the innuendo feels a little limp.
There’s plenty of doubling up as Mechanicals play Lovers but the challenges of this approach to staging, character and costume are largely overcome thanks to the small casts’ youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy. Confident delivery and physicality combine to keep the story flowing for a variety of audiences; the space is well used with cleverly choreographed dancing and fighting. In particular Elinor Machen-Fortune is a playful and lively Puck, revelling in childish pranks and the foolishness of mortals. The entire cast and crew work hard to keep the pace cracking along with jokes and romance.
By the final Act there is still enough time to draw out the comical absurdities of the play within a play and a pleasantly unusual piece of audience participation. Head round the corner from the Globe to see a sharp and innovative take on a classic Shakespearean comedy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Rose Playhouse until 26 August 2017.