Oh, the visions you will see!



OH my beautiful Bottom! With Hammed Animashaun and Oliver Chris. Photo courtesy

CAN YOU HAVE too much midsummer madness at the same time? It’s an odd decision for arguably two of the biggest of London’s theatres to be live streaming the same play at virtually the same time. Truth be told, if you watch Nicholas Hytner’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream before you get the chance to see the Globe’s version of the work, you might stop right there, replete with the overwhelming sense of party, madcap humour, magnificent language and larger than life characters squeezed into the Shakespearean mould with some notable naughty tweaks.

Not only is this work phenomenally well cast, but the cast are phenomenally strong in voice and in body: With David Moorst as the inimitable, double-jointed quasi-animal Puck and aerial ballet as one of the physical languages in the work, it’s a cheeky and baldly contemporary spin on the classic tale, which keeps the audience’s gaze in the stars a lot of the time, and highlights the potency of able clowning all of the time.

Bottom is deliciously played by Hammed Animashaun in a large yellow overall, and a major shift in gender stereotypes sees the fantastic Jamie-Rose Monk as Snug the Joiner (and also the lion), as well as Felicity Montagu in the officious role of Quince. But, there’s more: the mischief-making is put, not into the hands of Oberon, as Shakespeare would have had it, but rather in those of his faerie queen, Titania (Gwendoline Christie), and thence follows a whole layer of hilarious spins on sexual possibilities, bringing in all you can think of when ass-headed guy and faerie king get together in a mist of blind love. It is in the pauses that the humour is ramped up to levels of complete hilarity, touching and skirting as they do with many levels of implied taboo.

Regaling audience heads with garlands of purple flowers, the work raises and lowers the stage – or parts of it, in a way that ably constructs a landscape of hills and copses, where beds don’t look amiss and faeries skirt, oft invisible to the ordinary folk, in the interstices. And the faeries, themselves with their punk costume idioms, not to forget the gold lamé tights and heels of Mustardseed, for instance, play with what it could be to be a faerie.

From the Bottom-Oberon love duet to the way in which the idea of party is sprinkled around the work like an armful of glitter, this is a flawless work. It’s a piece which looks slightly askance at the strict 16th century miens, but reflects, with a strong sense of language and timing on the wonder of this particular work that is a rich and well-made concatenation of dreams, desires and visions for the gods. Don’t miss this delight – and bring your dancing shoes!

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream is written by William Shakespeare and directed by Nicholas Hytner for the Bridge Theatre in London in 2019. It is performed by Paul Adeyefa, Hammed Animashaun, Charlotte Atkinson, Tessa Bonham Jones, Oliver Chris, Gwendoline Christie, Jermaine Freeman, Isis Hainsworth, Chipo Kureya, Francis Lovehall, Kevin McMonagle, Ami Metcalf, Jamie-Rose Monk, Felicity Montagu, David Moorst, Jay Webb and Kit Young. Produced and presented by National Theatre Live, it features creative input by Bunny Christie (set design), Bruno Poet (lighting), Paul Arditti (sound), Christina Cunningham (costumes), Arlene Phillips (movement) and Grand Olding (composer) and is directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon. It broadcasts until 2 July via the National Theatre Live’s youtube channel.

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