Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Globe Theatre



The show runs until October 12.

By Immi Calderwood

Anyone who thinks they have seen enough of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ should think again with Dominic Dromgoole’s most recent Globe offering.

Performed on Shakespeare’s stage, in Renaissance costume and accompanied by a musical score to match, the description anticipates a ‘Midsummer’ stripped back to Elizabethan basics. But that is far from the truth. Instead, the production achieves a perfect symbiosis of classical and contemporary, forcing even veterans of the play to see its words in a whole new light.

The ‘contemporary’ element derives from merely changing the emphasis of a line or the focus of a scene, through to the decision to actually re-word parts of the script. Rewriting Shakespeare is, of course, a very bold move. Dipping into dangerous territory regarding respect for the words of the Great British Bard. The care with which the adjustments are achieved, however, creates room for the production to breathe: the actors are free to interact with their audience without it jarring, and the audience are treated to laughs that no one expects.

The most praiseworthy aspect of the production is that it achieves its originality whilst retaining the familiar: the conflict between the worlds of court and forest; the metatheatre and self-awareness; and of course the slapstick and the ridiculous.

Key players in the slapstick are the Rude Mechanicals, top of the heap as the real highlight of this production. The antics of the pack, led by Pearce Quigley’s wonderful Bottom – Shakespeare’s joke on theatre critics of the future – take ridiculous to a whole new level. It is through the Mechanicals that the ingenuity of the classical/contemporary combination really comes into its own.

The best-loved moments of the Mechanicals are enhanced by modern twists: a tap-battle between Bottom and Quince (Fergal McElherron), Bottom’s bizarre reference to Martin Luther King, and Flute/Thisbe’s (Christopher Logan) zombie-apocalypse death.

Although some moments do feel a little crowbarred – an unfortunate consequence of going for all out laughs- the success of this production is founded on a respect for one of Shakespeare’s greatest works that goes beyond mere reproduction of the original. This is a real achievement: a production that delivers everything best loved about ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with a very tangible affection, yet is not afraid to make adjustments, offering up something unexpected to its clearly delighted audience.

Photo courtesy of kevinofsydney, with thanks.

Follow us @SW_Londoner

Related Articles