Monday, 16 May 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW - A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe

Ewan Wardrop as Bottom. Picture credit Steve Tanner

In the programme notes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director and new boss of the Globe, Emma Rice, says it is her favourite Shakespeare play.
It’s also one of mine and having met Emma a few months before she officially took charge at the Bankside theatre and listened to her talk with passion and enthusiasm for taking on such a plum job, I had high hopes for this production.
It is the first in her inaugural season and I have a feeling that it isn’t for Shakespeare purists - it is loud, brash, full of contemporary references and as though someone has dumped a whole load of glitter on Bankside.
However it is fun, exuberant, colourful and full of laughter - which is really what this play is all about.
Emma has taken a certain amount of liberties with the text - perhaps her most daring is that of making Helena a man - Helenus - and thus the relationship with Demetrius a gay one. But it works - and brilliantly so.
Elsewhere in a genius move, Emma has brought in cabaret artiste Meow Meow to play Titania and Hippolyta - again this works although during the scene where she seduces Bottom it verges on Meow Meow just being herself.
The mechanicals are played, with exception of Bottom, by women who all work as volunteers at the Globe. Again, this works well and the humour is brought out to the fore.
There is also a mix of contemporary attire for the mortals and a punky version of Elizabethan garb for the fairies which I liked.
However, there are other elements that didn’t work so well for me - the constant references to Hoxton hipsters and the skit where the mechanicals sing a David Bowie number. Some of it - including some of the humour - was too contrived and this was a shame as the language is good enough that it doesn’t need that.
But that aside this is a production which is inventive and enjoyable and is a real crowd pleaser.
There are plenty of great performances too - in fact the whole cast is brilliant.
Katy Owen as Puck was great with her mix of hot pants, Elizabethan top and ruff and a water pistol which she was more than happy to use on the audience.
Ewan Wardrop as Bottom too was brilliant as was Ankur Bahl as Helenus and of course Meow Meow as Titania.
Now that the season is in full swing I can’t wait to see what Emma has up her sleeve for the rest of it.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside until September 11. Tickets from £5. Visit for full listings.

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