Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Erica Whyman
Composer: Sam Kenyon
Reviewer: Harriet Brace
“Wondrous strange” is a great way to describe A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Oberon says it himself. But this Royal Shakespeare Company production has enough of that elusive fairy dust to really take off.
The celebrated tale follows four young people falling in and out of love, sometimes naturally and sometimes by magical means, who stumble into the fairy kingdom ruled over by sparring King Oberon and Queen Titania. Meanwhile, a group of amateur actors equipped with more enthusiasm than natural talent are preparing a play, and temporarily lose their leading man to the fairy world by means of a roguish enchantment.
When audiences think of the play, one of Shakespeare’s best-known and best-loved, they often conjure up images of Grecian warriors and Pre-Raphaelite-style fairies in an idyllic enchanted wood. That’s why Erica Whyman’s ramshackle-chic 1940s setting is a genius contrast, carrying with it all the drama and tragedy of a war-era tale and with scope for the sharp wit and raucous humour Shakespeare intended.
Jack Holden and Chris Nayak as Lysander and Demetrius embody chivalrous rivalry, beginning with Boy Scout charm and descending into Carry On chest-puffing in their efforts to get the girl as their enchantment overwhelms them. Meanwhile, Mercy Ojelade and Laura Riseborough as Hermia and Helena are mighty in words and actions as they spit Shakespearian slurs and lament the altering affections of their lovers.
As the fairy forest explodes onto the stage in a circus of colour and sound, any audience member would struggle not to be completely enthralled − a feeling that continues as the delicious dance of jealousy, lust and loyalty unfolds between Oberon (Chu Omambala) and Titania (Ayesha Dharker). Lucy Ellinson is an endearing rogue as scoundrel sprite Puck, and a fairy-fied band of local school children selected to join RSC on stage only adds to the magical atmosphere.
A well-deserved spotlight must, however, be cast for the Citizens ‘Dream Players’, a group of amateur and novice local actors from all walks of life who successfully secured roles as the Mechanicals. Performing a play within a play that no doubt echoes their own wonder at an opportunity with the RSC, the cast brings classic Glasgow humour to the centuries-old text with such hilarity that the Bard himself would be proud.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is almost sure to draw a crowd, and the RSC even more so, but bringing a new and exciting angle to the production is a massive challenge. In Act One Oberon says of his magical plan: “This falls out better than I could devise.” For the RSC at the Citz, and the lucky ticket holders that get to see them there, that is certainly the case.
Runs until 2 April 2016 | Image:Topher McGrillis