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The Theatreguide.London Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Bridge Theatre   Summer 2019

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a happy, celebratory comedy. This is a happy, celebratory production.

And so, while there are things about it that might upset a Shakespeare purist (and about which I'll grumble a bit further on), the main thing to say is that it is a lot of fun and highly recommended.

(Do we need a plot summary? A bunch of people run into some fairies in the woods, confusions result, and everything turns out all right.)

In some ways Nicholas Hytner's production is an anthology of other people's ideas. Turning the fairies into airborne acrobats hanging and dancing on silks is a salute to Peter Brook's legendary 'circus' production from the 1970s, while imagining Puck as a punk rocker was common in the 1990s.

Double casting Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania is almost orthodoxy, as is imagining the mechanicals as a mixed-gender modern group.

This is a promenade production, which means that some of the audience mill about freely in the same space as the actors (guided discreetly by audience wranglers).

Hytner himself used a similar staging last year in Julius Caesar, and more effectively then than now, the audience functioning as the Roman crowd, while here they are just groundlings, as at the Globe.

The biggest directorial intervention comes with some gender-bending that seems almost pointless, except that it generates some easy laughs – which may be sufficient justification.

I won't give away the biggest switch except to say that it seems to do particular violence to the play's characterisations and internal logic. But it's worth noting that the romantic confusions among the four young lovers include a bit of boy-boy and girl-girl action.

Among the performers, Gwendoline Christie doesn't seem able to find much difference between Hippolyta and Titania, though Oliver Chris as Theseus and Oberon is given the opportunity to switch between cold imperiousness and broad camping.

David Moorst is an engagingly disrespectful Puck and Hammed Animashaun is enjoyably outgoing and unflappable as Bottom.

Isis Hainsworth catches the voice of a stroppy teenager as Hermia while Tessa Bonham Jones suggests there's more backbone to Helena than even the girl herself realises, and I assume that it was a directorial choice to have Paul Adeyefa and Kit Young play Demetrius and Lysander as interchangeably practically identical.

With most of the action taking place on platforms popping up or rolling on amid the groundlings, Bunny Christie's design concept of a bunch of beds is obviously inspired by the play's title.

But neither the symbols themselves nor the supposed hint that the action is all one or more dreams are ever developed, and nothing would have been lost without the beds.

But forget my pedantic cavils. Go with an open mind and open heart and have a lovely time.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - A Midsummer Night's Dream - Bridge Theatre 2019