David Gurney and Hollie Hales as Bottom and Titania. Photo by Jeanie Jean.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is done so frequently in London that it runs the risk of overexposure. While to an audience member it may seem like an easy choice for a production, it is arguably one of the trickiest Shakespearian comedies to pull off; not only because of the three intertwining narratives but because of all of the detailed physical comedy required. I have to admit that I was somewhat hesitant going into the show. I needn’t have been.
Joshua Jewkes’ adaptation of this classic cuts away all of the extras, leaving only the heart of the tale for public consumption. We are met with our lovers, our fairies and our mechanicals-turned-actors.
Hermia (Marie Issermann) and Lysander (Rob Fellman) decide to elope, Helena (Leah Lawry-Johns) advises Demetrius (Matthew Harrison-James) of their plan, hoping to win Demetrius back. The four, lost in the forest, become the unwitting playthings of the fairies who, in trying to solve their woes, only cause more confusion.
Titania (Hollie Hales) and Oberon (Martin Sales), the fairy queen and king, have all the power in this production. These fairies are not quaint or delicate but rather earthy and rogue. Beautiful direction by Jaclyn Bradley immediately establishes their ability to manipulate the world, and one another, with even the slightest movement of their hand. Joshua Jewkes is a lovable Puck, loyal sidekick to Oberon, full of enthusiasm and goofiness. The comic duo are the glue that hold this production together with their outstanding chemistry. Hales, without a changeling boy or fairies to rely on, endures the most cuts in this production. Her performance, navigated with a sharp focus and detail, does not suffer for it. In fact, she often seems like one of the most sensible characters, despite her amorous attachment to a donkey. It almost feels as though the three could be the only magical beings in existence, adding a lovely touch that makes you wonder if Titania and Oberon haven’t just decided to give themselves their royal titles.
That is not to say their human counterparts don’t perform equally as well. Lawry-Johns is an utterly compelling Helena, winning us over with her honest adoration and attempted seductions of Demetrius. David Gurney makes a wonderful Bottom, boisterous and entirely unreserved, dominating the acting troupe much to the dismay of their director Peter Quince (Charlotte Warner).
This adaptation is not shy when it comes to going off-text. As weaver Bottom and bellows-mender Flute (Darren Latham) congratulate one another on their clever ideas for their play, Warner rightfully steps in to remind them it was, in fact, her idea. Cue jokes about female directors, inviting knowing giggles from the audience members.
This thoroughly enjoyable production of Midsummer is a midsummer evening well spent.
CandleFire Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at the Waterloo East Theatre until July 23, 2016. Tickets cost £14 / £12 (concessions). For more information and to book click here.