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A Midsummer Night's Dream of a performance!



Review by Paul Nelson

IT IS unfortunate that whatever your taste in theatre, from tragedy to farce, you cannot always guarantee to come out of the place having had the time of your life.

For those of you who are keen on having the time of your life, I can do no more than recommend A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Edward Hall's production at the Comedy Theatre.

Even the lovers' tiffs become high farce and the enjoyment is enhanced, not hindered, by the fact that it is performed by an all-male cast.

When the audience was not creased with laughter, it frequently broke out in spontaneous rounds of applause as each actor reached his zenith, and they all get a turn so to do.

I have always subscribed to the idea that I have seen so many productions of the play the next time will be a bore, and I was fully prepared to say 'well done' and leave.

I certainly wasn't primed to see what happened in this showing.

It is quite brilliant and it is very infectious to sit in an auditorium surrounded by people shouting with laughter.

Whatever gloominess you came in with you leave as the play commences, never to reclaim it.

The production is jam-packed with bits of funny business, some of it so glaringly obvious that you wonder some other director hadn't invented it before and added it to his production.

Some of these moments are very tiny, and the smaller and more subtle, the funnier they become.

Take, for example, when Bottom is transformed into an ass. As he moves about, his feet make the noises of hoofs, to his surprise, and our hysteria (coconut shells off stage).

Equally funny, and with just the right amount of bawdiness, is the second that Puck completes the transformation and we discover to screams of joy that Bottom really is hung like a donkey.

Titania's delight has to be curbed by Oberon before matters become downright lewd. Bawdy but no vice.

From this you will gather the comedy is very broad, but nothing those fans of the late Max Miller couldn't recognise and revel in.

Played like a panto, this is not really for the kiddies, though I certainly wouldn't hesitate to take mine to see it.

The lovers' quarrel is so very bitter and so energetically acted that I could swear I was about to see real GBH done to Hermia by Lysander and by Hermia to Helena.

The more vicious the quarrel becomes, the funnier it gets. Never before has the crumbling of love affairs been so vitriolic. I found it blissful.

A staunch misogynist could have a cardiac arrest from the sheer gladness of heart it would bring him.

When the poetry of the play takes over, Oberon, Puck et al move into their higher plane and together with the set designer create an evening of outstanding beauty.

Naturally, a lot of the humour derives from the fact that they are all men; Hippolyta, for example, is a dreamy, lumpy Joan Bakewell, gestures and all. To an audience steeped in, together with several of the alumni of, television, the evening shimmers.

The cast of 14 perform the play superbly, ten of them managing to become a throng of fairies in unnoticeable quick changes, and at no time does the very magical core of the play suspend belief.
The evening is a triumph.

It must be of particular satisfaction to the production team, who manage to maintain a breakneck pace throughout.

The effects, some of which are breathtakingly simple and effective, work with a smoothness I suspect they would not have believed possible at the start of rehearsals.

It is, to put it quite honestly, a brilliant evening in the theatre. Go and have the time of your life.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, Directed by Edward Hall, Associate Director Heather Davies, Designed by Michael Pavelka, Lighting Design Ben Ormerod, Performance Text edited by Roger Warren, Music Composed and Arranged by Tony Bell, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Jules Werner. WITH: Tony Bell (Bottom the Weaver), Dugald Bruce-Lockhart (Lysander), Richard Clothier (Titania, Queen of the Fairies), Emilio Doorgasingh (Hippolyta), Matt Flynn (Theseus), Robert Hands (Helena), Vincent Leigh (Demetrius/Snout), Jonathan McGuinness (Hermia/Snug), Chris Myles (Quince/Egeus), Simon Scardifield (Puck/Starveling), Jules Werner (Flute), Guy Williams (Oberon, King of the Fairies), Alasdair Craig (Fairy/Understudy), Alexander Giles (Fairy/Understudy). Presented by Ambassador Theatre Group, Annette Niemtzow and Harlene Freezer, Incidental Colman Tod and Matthew Mitchell Ltd, a Watermill Theatre Production by Propeller, at the Comedy Theatre, Panton Street, London SW1. Tickets 020 7369 1731.

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