A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe

  • Running until Sunday 11 September 2016
  • Approx 3 hours, including 15 minute interval

There is something magical about watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe theatre. You feel very far from the Southbank, falling deep into fairy land after walking through the pretty fairy-lit trees and finding your seat (or standing spot) beneath the white baubles. Open air theatre is perfect for this much performed comedy, the sun slowly setting as the play progresses. There are little anchors to the modern world though – this is far from a complete submersion in otherworldly enchantment. Modern jokes abound, and the fun-loving comedy laid on thick is the glue of this production.  It’s probably not the performance for strict purists. But what the play lacks in sincere, conventionally pretty woodland magic it makes up for with its abundance of mischief, sparkle and spirit.
Emma Rice’s first production as Artistic Director at the Globe is raucous, promiscuous, and bubbling with wild youthful energy and unapologetic naughtiness. Puck’s closing line is spot on – “If we spirits have offended, think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear”. The production does play out like a colourful spectacle of a weird but wonderful day dream. It is bright and brilliant in its Bollywood style dancing and celebration – the post wedding festivities a treat for the senses. Special credit to the choreographers Etta Murfitt and Emma Rice for interspersing the modern dance moves (Beyonce’s ‘if you like it then you should have put a ring on it’ outburst a particular personal highlight).

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In a welcome change to the original Helena becomes Helenus, a tight trouser wearing Hoxtonian in love with Demetrius. Despite Emma Rice’s joking interpolation of the line “why is everybody so obsessed with text” into the play (Rice has directed only one Shakespeare play prior to this one) this choice brings new meaning to Demetrius’s line “I cannot love you”, adding an extra gratifying dimension to his gradual acceptance of his love for Helenus. It also gives new meaning to Hermia being short in comparison (a “dwarf” compared to Helenus’s man height) as well as to Hermia’s relationship with Helenus, her gay best friend.

My favourites though are Anjana Vasan as Hermia – enthusiastically earnest, loveable and funny, and Katy Owen as Puck – with flashing, glittering silver trainers. Puck is the bold and lascivious spirit of the play, tugging groundlings’ hair, kissing, squirting water pistols into the crowd. The four lovers are regularly in the pit area too, making sure that the space and standing audience are very much interacted with. The Rude Mechanicals meanwhile are dressed up as a bunch of Globe stewards and cleaners. They run through safety at the beginning, with attendants on hand to help slick down big view-affecting hair, or over-loud snack munching. The play in the play Pyramus and Thisbe is a hilarious highlight. “Wall” is a collection of brightly stacked cereal boxes, alongside stage shy Rita Quince (Lucy Thackeray), and Bankside Health and Safety officer, Nick Bottom (Ewan Wardrop).

The stage is a wedding cake centrepiece, pulsing with the energy and colour of the performance. Huge white balloons are suspended above the groundlings, Titania descends from the sky, a red neon sign proclaims “rock the ground”, whilst a fireman’s pole on stage sees cast members slide and bounce into centre stage. This may not be the Midsummer Night’s Dream you know, but it is certainly one to revel in before the summer is over.

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