Thursday, 29 January 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Liverpool Playhouse

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Directed by Edward Hall

Reviewer: Kate Cottrell

As a huge fan of Shakespeare I have long loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream as one of Shakespeare’s true classics and by far the funniest of all his comedies so I was eagerly anticipating this performance and longing for it to capture the magic, humour and warmth that this play, when done well, has in abundance.

I was not disappointed! Propeller deliver a breathtaking performance - beautiful, romantic, fantastical and comic and, all the more interesting and inspiring because it is performed by an entirely male cast as, of course, it would have been in Shakespeare’s day.

From the opening moment when Puck’s ruby red slippers appear it is clear that the whole production of the piece has been guided by the dream like qualities of the play. The set is beautiful, with ghostly white fabric draped around the stage and tens of ornate chairs fixed to create a suspended level half way up the stage. Oberon and Titania’s thrones sit throughout the piece, suspended in air at the front of the stage – their crowns depicted by wreaths of branches and leaves. The piece, as a whole, feels polished and expertly crafted – with all actors coming together to create an ensemble of fairies and beautifully depicting the changing face of the woods through which the lovers
are escaping.

The live music created on stage with a variety of weird and wonderful instruments also gives a haunting quality and brings the woods and the dream to life.
The three stories that link together to create the piece are expertly told through good direction and some wonderful performances. Special mention must go to Richard Frame who turns in a brilliantly feminine yet never “I’m a lady” performance in the role of the much sought after Hermia and doubles as Snug the Joiner, our cowardly lion who is ‘slow of study’ with some brilliant moments of comedy and terrific characterisation.

Indeed the ‘actors’, or Rude Mechanicals as they are often known, are a great part of the piece and, whilst their final performance to the court does drag a little, the comic timing and delivery is superb. Their initial meeting in the woods and their comic horror when Bottom is ‘transformed’ is a joy to watch. I cannot recommend this production highly enough – there are so many aspects to comment on and individual performances that are so well constructed - Richard Clothier as the most gentle and serene Oberon I’ve ever seen, Bob Barret as the wonderfully pompous and self righteous Bottom and, of course, Jon Trenchard in the role of our narrator Puck who creates a playfully physical and mischievous character that we long to see more of.

Propeller, who are performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside The Merchant of Venice in a double bill, are off to as far a field as New York and Tokyo with this piece – catch it if you can – you won’t be disappointed.
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