Fringe Box



Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 6 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2013

A cheeky Puck (Shane Frater) waits while Helena (Rebecca Loudon) longs for her love

by The Stage Dragon

Did you read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at school? Probably, it is a favourite and one of the most accessible of Shakespeare’s plays. From the word go, it is clear that the theatre company Custom/Practice have taken note of this and their target audience for this production is obvious.

It opens in an inner city school’s detention room. We are greeted with a haphazard bunch of senior school stereotypes who, as a part of their detention, are asked to study A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An imaginative connection to the target audience perhaps but half way through the first act I was asking myself what significance this actually has to the overall production.

Once past the initial introductory scenes, over before you know it, we are transported with the students to the fantastical forest in which the traditionally recognisable play is set. From there-on-in there is no reference back to the schoolroom at all, apart from in Puck’s final speech although dispersed in the script are a few shoe-horned contemporary references to keep a young audience engaged.

The cost though is some of the play’s depth and meaning. I felt rushed, as if the company were bounding ahead to the more comedic passages; delivered very well though they are. I would have enjoyed a somewhat slower pace on the more demanding monologues, such as Titania’s initial speech.

The haste to pass through Titania and Oberon’s scenes means that you aren’t able to fully grasp the fraught tension of their relationship, the tension that ultimately leads to Oberon performing a spell on Titania making her fall in love with an ass.


Demetrius and Lysander quarrel over Helena while Hermia watches in disbelief

Technically the show is pleasing, with a simple yet effective set of sliding doors to create the detention room and poles dotted around the stage to provide trees, for the fairies to climb and jump from, accompanied by shrubbery, strewn across the stage, creating a good impression of the depth of the forest. Good sound effects are delivered to aid a creation of atmosphere right from the start and the cast work well with these, taking their cues perfectly.

Individually, the acting is strong and is very much an ensemble piece. With only eight actors in the company it demands they multi-roll. They do this well performing each of their characters skilfully, coping well with what must be manic off-stage costume changes.


Bottom finishes his performance as Pyramus with a hilarious dance routine

Liam Mansfield shines as Oberon, brilliantly capturing the nature of the character, engaging well with Puck (Shane Frater), who equally pulls focus whenever on-stage. Frater is cheeky, funny and perfectly mischievous.

A positive aspect of having such a quick paced version of this play is that it allows the actors to throw their all energetically into their performances and this is exactly what they do. For me though there is a lack of maturity in the production perhaps partly caused the youthful cast.

As Helena/Quince, Rebecca Loudon’s physicality and liveliness is second to none, showing the contrast in characters effortlessly. At times she may go slightly over-the-top with Quince; but perhaps this is to fully show the character’s enthusiasm for the play within the play.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good production. It is light-hearted and funny, especially in the final scenes where the cast have clearly worked the hardest. For senior school students, this play hits the spot. However, if you’re looking for something more from your Shakespeare then this may not be the one for you. Showing until Saturday 9th May at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

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