A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Emma Rice
Running until 11th September 2016 (Sold Out)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals) who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.
Dream is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. It’s definitely my favourite comedy and I was really excited about seeing it performed live. I’ve studied Dream extensively and I even wrote my BA dissertation on Dream which was amazing. I know certain scenes of the play by heart. How sad is that? I was very wary about seeing on of my favourite plays live but I was certain that Shakespeare’s Globe would do it justice.
Dream is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays and the cast of this performance really captured the dirty humour of Shakespeare’s c.1597 play. The mechanicals were hilarious and I loved that they were mainly women (except for Bottom) and their ‘play’ of Pyramus and Thisbe at the end of the play was genuinely hilarious. I was crying with laughter and it was just amazing. Every character was funny and the tone of the play was just joyous. This joyous tone really emphasised the darkness of certain scenes, especially the scenes where Demetrius attacks Helena and where Lysander attacks Hermia. These scenes were shocking and disturbing compared to the rest of the play and they really stood out.
I was extremely impressed with Meow Meow as Titania and Hippolyta. I thought that she was gorgeous and she knew how to work the stage in such an incredible way. She brought something extra to the character, a sexy confidence, and I thought that she did the character justice. She’s one of my favourite Titanias.
I was worried about changing Helena to Helenus but it worked so well. I was mainly worried because Shakespeare has so few main female characters and I was a bit annoyed that Emma Rice had removed one but she genderbent other characters and added more women into the play so that it was evenly balanced. Helenus was a wonderful character and Ankur Bahl was one of the best parts of the play for me. He was such a fantastic actor. Shakespeare was not afraid of implying homosexuality in his plays (mainly in As You Like It) but it was great to see a gay couple represented on stage. Shakespeare would have approved. I think that Rice did the right thing by keeping the majority of the text the same, just changing pronouns where appropriate, because changing the text would have been a step too far for a lot of people.
The music was wonderful and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of music in the play. I think that people often forget that Shakespeare had songs in his plays and by having the fairies sing a lot of their lines Rice created a carnival feel to the play. The set was simple but it really worked. Most of the props were simple and easily moved, such as Hermia’s tent and Titania’s bed, but they worked well with the tone and setting of the play. They often added humour too as the props occasionally malfunctioned and that allowed for a bit of improvisation by the actors. The lighting was annoying at times as it was just so obnoxious and bright. It worked in much of the play but it was a tad OTT at times. I had mixed feelings about the costumes to begin with but they really grew on me as the play continued. They suited the tone of the play and I particularly loved Titania’s costume. It was just magical and it really suited Meow Meow’s interpretation of Titania. I loved the whole ‘Hoxton Hipster’ vibe they had going on too for the four lovers.
I genuinely enjoyed this play. It was honestly amazing.
Verdict: 4.5/5 – Emma Rice’s Dream was joyous but I was occasionally distracted by the artificial lighting.
Images are linked to the Shakespeare’s Globe website.