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Midsummer Night's Dream, RX, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield doesn't stop laughing for 105 minutes

Published on July 12th 2012.


Midsummer Night's Dream, RX, Reviewed

I CAN quote lines off by heart from a Midsummer Night's Dream and I didn't even study it.

The play has been smashed to bits, de-constructed, re-constructed and blown out in a great bowel-blast of a utterly engaging nonsense

I read the play at university but that was for leisure when I should have been studying my law degree.

I'd worked out by then that trust law was the mental equivalent of hanging, drawing and quartering. Midsummer Night's Dream provided a simple, distracting delight. The course of true law never did run smooth.

What I never imagined while reading the play is that somebody could re-think Midsummer Night's Dream like Filter Theatre has. 

Shakepeare's story of the mishaps amongst lovers in Athens caught up in a fairy feud has been smashed to bits, de-constructed, re-constructed and blown out in a great bowel-blast of a utterly engaging nonsense.

This is Shakespeare as laugh-a-minute, crash bang wallop comedy with a capital C. Despite the flying expletives I'll be back with my twelve and fifteen year old sons.

They'll love it.

The mechanicalsThe mechanicals: photo Jonathan Keenan

The trick to this Midsummer Night's Dream is putting 'the mechanicals' (the country bumpkins) centre stage led by Peter Quince played wonderfully by Ed Gaughan. This starts with a monologue that despite being rude to our esteemed monarch is still very funny. 

Nick Bottom, soon to be ass-transformed, was played by Fergus O'Donnell. The way Filter Theatre get Bottom into the play is a proper giggle and a miles wide deviation from the original text. O'Donnell possibly outshone Gaughan. 

Oberon (Jonathan Broadbent) played as a slapstick super-hero, awkward and risible does a fine job too, as does the truculent Puck, (Ferdy Roberts). Poppy Miller as the lusty Titania overacts her passion for Bottom with real relish.

Super-OberonSuper-Oberon: photo Jonathan Keenan

There is no interval, just 105 minutes of unrelenting mischief. The staging is superb and the numerous musical interludes a delight. 

Purists might find this deconstruction of Shakespeare's work hard to take, but you suspect the Bard would have approved. It's coarse, it's bawdy, it's unsophisticated, all elements integral to the man from Stratford.

You wouldn't want this to happen to Macbeth but it works here, after all Midsummer Night's Dream's job as a play has always been to entertain while the 'visions appear' before the audience's eyes.

Filter Theatre should be congratulated, for the production, for the verve they bring to the acting, and for the excellent use of the theatre in the round space of The Royal Exchange.

If anybody requires some light relief this summer then this production, directed by Sean Holmes, will deliver it and more.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is on until 12 August at The Royal Exchange, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, M2 7DH

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

 

Royal ExchangeRoyal Exchange


 


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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SmittyJuly 12th 2012.

Interesting review, I definitely think this is a marmite production. Personally it didn't float my boat (or that of my glamorous companion), but more than half the audience were pissing themselves and, I guess, you can't argue with that.

My question is that when the source material is so good, why do people think they can improve on it? I like it when Shakespeare productions use contemporary settings, for example, but I don't see the value in dicking around with the words.

I felt it attempted to throw together low-end farce (at one point someone's trousers did actually fall down, didn't they?) with one of the finest comedies ever written, and I didn't think it gelled.

Also I would rather see Bottom with an asses' head on than stupid jokes about the size of his cock. God came up with that gag a few thousand years ago and it's not really been funny since. Shakespeare does crass much better. And a food fight? FFS, as the kids say.

Oberon was fantastic, however, and the staging superb.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SmittyJuly 12th 2012.

That apostrophe mistake I made there is disgusting. It should, of course, be an ass' head. *hangs head in shame*

bourketothefutureJuly 12th 2012.

I agree with Jonathan that this is a hugely entertaining show that surely only the most narrow-minded of purists wouldn't enjoy. You can't help thinking that this sort of irreverence and glee is exactly what an audience in Shakespeare's own day would have recognised and relished. Not sure about Jonathan's newly-coined phrase "ass-transformed", though.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SmittyJuly 12th 2012.

marmite, I tells ya!

AnonymousJuly 12th 2012.

I agree with the reviewer Shakespeare would approve! Bawdy, irreverent ,and very good audiance participation. Do we always have to acccept the Olivien representation of Shakespeare as the correct interpretation ?

AnonymousJuly 14th 2012.

I agree with Smitty. I paid with the expectation that I would see actors speaking the words of Shakespeare, but only about half the play was written by Shakespeare. The ticket said"Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare", but some Whitehall Farce bloke wrote most of it.

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