A Midsummer Night's Dream review: "One big anarchic in-joke" starring Freddie Fox and ex-EastEnder Maddy Hill ★★★
The Southwark Playhouse's version isn't one for purists - but it's good fun if you're game
Another week, another “dream”.
This summer we've already had Emma Rice channelling Beyonce and Bowie at the Globe and Russell T Davies’ CGI extravaganza on television. Perhaps the really radical way to do this play would be in doublet and hose.
In the latest stab at offering a different take on Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy, the production company Go People has stripped things back and made everything so totally meta that you begin to feel the original work is quite a tenuous reason for being here. A company of seven people share all seventeen parts for comic effect. Presumably that's also why the running time has been hacked back to little more than ninety minutes.
Maddy Hill plays Titania and Quince
The action takes place on a bare stage with no effects and no lighting. Much is made of the lack of props and scenery in apologetic asides to the audience. In fact, there’s a lot of asides and audience members press-ganged into service for the small parts — don’t sit in the front row if you’re not game for a laugh.
As the actors skip in and out of character and poke fun at egotistical actors and the process of putting on a play, you soon realise you’re being let in on one big anarchic in-joke. You’d have to be a very po-faced purist not to run with it, such is the energy and sheer sense of fun.
There are nice turns from Freddie Fox as Bottom and Demetrius — his transformation into a donkey is a great piece of physical comedy. Melanie Fullbrook is a delight as Puck and a harassed stage manager, while Maddy Hill personifies the vitality and enthusiasm of the whole company as Titania and Quince — her first gig since leaving EastEnders.
It gets a bit chaotic in the final act when every character is supposed to be on stage. The action is so far removed from the text at times that I’m not sure this can be counted as a proper production of the play at all. But it certainly leaves you with a smile on your face.
At the Southwark Playhouse until 1 July