Jane Hobson

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Reviewer's Rating

On a warm July night, in a city where at that very moment the same play is being performed at least thrice over, Dominic Hill’s atmospheric take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream uses both it’s setting and design to stand out from what has gone before.

The production freely admits the pressure that it is under – A Midsummer Night’s Dream has only been 7 years on hiatus from The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre itself, and has surely been performed countless other times in-between. There is pressure for this production and every other happening in London this summer to be different from the rest, whilst still being the Shakespeare that audiences keep coming back for. There is a tightrope to be walked here, once which a very skilled cast and production team will walk you across relatively unscathed.

We see the intertwined plots of two groups lost in the forest – a group of four young lovers attempting to elope and a group of amateur dramatists escaping the city to rehearse. The rehearsals are used to great comic affect, but both storylines are as playful as one and other. The young lovers run around childlike in their pyjamas, lugging huge mattresses on their backs.

This is in contrast to the creatures residing in the forest, where the mischievous fairies we knew before are replaced by towering creatures lurking in the shadows. They would be prone to terrify, if they didn’t spend most of their time in the background chewing through Tupperware and Oyster cards. Every aspect of the play is kept perfectly in this balance between the playfulness of dreams and the terror which they can bring.

In terms of design, this production is playing with the very best home advantage in London. The straggly reeds that flank the stage allow the set to be stylish and minimal. This is something which the production team here have managed to bring in spades. There is style here, there is charisma. I would have happily sat and watched the set changes all over again, so well crafted to each part of the play as they were. The sunrise at the culmination of the fourth act sticks in my head for the beautifully atmospheric moment the it was – light beaming through the large amber trees behind the stage as the characters return from their daze.

The atmosphere created as the cast and design mesh together so perfectly is what left me reveling, but the story is told in a way that provides something for both Shakespeare fans and virgins alike.