Monday, 27 April 2015

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM by the Nottingham New Theatre and Lakeside
Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside.

SPOILER ALERT*** I am about to gush!!

This is probably the most amazing production of one of Stratford Bill's works I have ever seen. It is one of Shakespeare's best loved and widely performed comedies, and in the hands of Martin Berry as director, it is even more fun. Knowing Martin quite well as a director I expected that he would create something just a little different and boy was I in for a surprise.

I've previously said that I can take or leave updated versions of Shakespeare's works, but this is one that I will take and take and keep taking because I just loved everything about this wonderful piece of work.

The forest is a magical place where strange and wonderful magic is done. Magic that can turn a person into an animal and can change the perception and mind of a person to make them fall for anyone the fairies wish, and boy do the mischievous fairies have their fun here. But you can only have so much fun before it's time to change back the unknowing victims to their original mind set.

The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, it teased images of a tropical fish tank, planted with the most luscious of plants where the actors weaved in and out of the foliage like calming angelfish and others dart from plant to plant, keeping your visual senses on alert. The gorgeous design by Dorrie Scott.

The lighting was also beautiful and complementing the set to a tee, highlighting different parts of the set and guiding your eyes to the places where you were next to focus on, all thanks to the magic of Richard Statham.

The acting was amazingly good as well as being wonderfully off the wall with sections of the play being "Pythonesque" and bordering at times on "Carry On". And that is what made this production so very very enjoyable. Shakespeare wrote some bawdy stuff for his time and wrote for the common man and that is what is brought out by Martin and the cast. It breaks down all of those stuffy barriers that seem to have been erected in Shakespeare theatre land.

You really have to see the "play within the play" section to believe what fun can be had with the bawdy bard. Men in drag, semi nudity and packed pants are the order of the play, or day, whichever.

Emily Brady was a beautiful Oberon as was Rachel Connolly as Titania. Puck, the mischievous one was played by Laura Jane-Bateman and was an absolute joy to watch, and so full of life and zest.

Lysander and Demetrius as the male love rivals for Hermia and Helena were played by James Roscow and Dan O Connor and Jessica Millott and Libby Boyd, respectively. the male roles were dressed in modern garb while the ladies in traditional Greek. Some lovely comic touches for all four.

Now it's not often I get the chance to say this but Ben Maries is a wonderfully entertaining Bottom and looks convincing as an ass too. Ben has a great acting face reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson in some of his expressions. And well done for managing to get his lines out through those teeth (the false ones for the ass, not his own).

Nick Gill has a dual role as Euges, the father of Hermia, and as the sometimes cross dressing Flute in the internal play "Pyramis and Thisbe". Again a brilliant character driven role with some wonderful comedy sections.

Eoin Buckley (Snout) plays a tinker and wall, yes you read that right, but it's the funniest wall I've seen, complete with a hole that at times is rather glorious, for want of a better description!!

Snug, the joiner and the lion in the P&T play makes being a sandwich short of a picnic look so easy but I know that this will just be really good acting from Beth Wilson. A good slapstick scene with Snug at the centre is pure pantomime.

Emma Kendall (Starveling) and Louise Knapp (Quince) complete the travelling actors who are The Mechanics, the troupe who put on the P&T play.

This play is an absolute winner and the only Shakespearean play to feature music by Queen as well as Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson. Forsooth that Shakespeare chap was way ahead of his time and if they had taught this sort of Shakespeare when I was at school I would not have had to wait so long to enjoy the bard at this level.

Congratulations Mr Berry. Congratulations Nottingham New Theatre. A show not to be missed!

"A MIdsummer Night's Dream" is on at Djanogly Theatre at Lakeside until Saturday 2 May 2015

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