29 July 2012

For Puck's sake

You still have chance to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal Exchange, and might I suggest you do. I'll admit I was a bit reluctant to go when I heard there were musical numbers and no interval, but this production blew me away with its innovative approach to Shakespeare's text, dragging the play kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I suffered no problems with the language - much of the Mechanicals' speech has been "translated" into modern English while the Athenians deliver many of their lines as songs and with plenty of gestures, which helped enormously in following the plot. The magic of fairyland comes alive with some amazing sound effects created live on stage using a variety of instruments and improvised noise-making implements, and with some excellent devices and props (the pop-up tent for starters).

The Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre Company present their interpretation in the round, with a clever set (ignoring the weird sunken bath Titania, played by Poppy Miller, and Bottom, unlisted, sleep in) and clever set-ups. The tongue-in-cheek comedy is great and there are some fabulous takes on the various characters: as well as Ed Gaughan as the brilliantly exasperated Peter Quince who talks ten to the dozen, Jonathan Broadbent is a standout as an Austin Powersesque Oberon - though even he doesn't come near Ferdy Roberts' swaggering and sweary lager-swilling Puck (pictured). Just awesome. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs until Saturday 4 August. Visit www.royalexchange.co.uk for tickets.

Image: Jonathan Keenan

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