If you’re looking to revive an interest in Shakespeare or introduce a youngster to his works, then look no further than Propeller’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The production features classical Shakespeare mixed with modern pizazz and a little bit of panto sprinkled on top. If your child is bored of studying Shakespeare, there’s a solution: take them to this visually stunning, beautifully crafted and wonderfully entertaining production.
Helena (Dan Wheeler) is hopelessly in love with Demetrius (Arthur Wilson), but he loves Hermia (Matthew McPherson). However, she loves Lysander (Richard Pepper), who loves her back, until cheeky fairy Robin Goodfellow (Joseph Chance) puts a spell on him that makes him fall for Helena. Meanwhile, a troupe of actors are rehearsing a play that they’ll perform for Theseus, the Duke of Athens (Dominic Gerrard) and Hippolyta, Queen of the Athens (Will Featherstone) as well as their guests. Robin decides to have some fun and magically transforms actor Bottom (Chris Myles) into a donkey. He also puts a spell on Titania, Queen of the Fairies (James Tucker) and the behest of the Fairy King, Oberon (Darrell Brockis), which causes her to fall in love with Bottom. Sounds hard to keep up with, huh? To tell you the truth, it zips along at such a wonderful pace that it doesn’t matter if you’ve kept up or not. It picks you up and takes you on a delightfully chaotic and completely hilarious journey.
Director Edward Hall treats the play as a contemporary piece of theatre, as if it were written nowadays. He sees Shakespeare’s fantastic work for what it is: a smart and wonderfully hilarious comedy, trimming all the sides off to make it accessible to everyone. Hall’s direction was supreme; pre-existing subtexts came alive under his (and designer Michael Pavelka’s) control of staging, costume and atmospheric set design. Chairs surrounded the walls of the stage, which meant that the performers were coming from everywhere, which accompanied the anarchic and chaotic play.
Every single actor’s performance was mesmerising. In particular from those playing women, who did it so well that sometimes I completely forgot that I was watching a man. Credit has to go to Matthew McPherson who played Hermia and to Dan Wheeler as Helena, who brought the piece to life but didn’t springboard it too far into panto territory that it become too much to salvage. They were pretty much perfect in their roles. Their talents were showcased in the quarrel scene between the four lovers, which saw Hermia set upon Helena in a furious rage, bordering so much on the ridiculous that one couldn’t help but be helpless with laughter.
The whole comic masterpiece is wrapped up in a very manageable two-and-a-half hours. It’s a magical retelling of Shakespeare’s most delightful of fantasies. The antics of Bottom, Puck and co will leave you utterly spellbound.
Also, be aware that the troupe treats the audience to a concert during the interval, which is made up of dream-themed songs. Myself and theatre fans alike were positively delighted by the group’s performance of songs like Daydream Believer and Dream A Little Dream Of Me, which was a sublime way to spend an interval.