Writer: William Shakespeare
Music: Dan Gillespie Sells
Director: Robert Hastie
Choreographer: Darragh O’Leary
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
“The course of true love never did run smooth”, so goes the most quoted line from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A sentiment totally echoed in real life, but never so true as in this magical tale of both fairy and human love affairs. It is basically a play within a play, but has three different groups of lovers entwined within it. There’s a wedding being planned alongside an ongoing love triangle; a fairy king and queen at odds but in mischief mode; and an ‘am dram’ group of tradesmen putting on a romantic offering played out from two sides of a wall. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, in true Shakespearean style, much does go wrong and there are twists and turns, and laughter, before everyone can live happily ever after.
This new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Artistic Director Robert Hastie at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is a refreshingly original one. The circular stage extending out into the auditorium provides a perfect space for any Shakespeare play, since it puts the audience members close to the action in the way that the Bard originally intended his work to be performed. In the case of an atmospheric fairytale such as this, it works particularly well. A huge moon rightly takes centre stage, dominating the theatre and changing the colour and mood of all the action of the play. The floor space is sparkly and lit according to the scene, and all around the edges of the stage there are flowers “growing”. The nighttime scenes, when the full moon is low and bright and the fairy folk are wearing luminous fluorescent-coloured gossamer dresses, depict the impression of a supernatural forest glen so well that it is quite unnerving. Fairies at the bottom of the garden never looked like this…
Another unusual focal point in this production is the piano. A musical element has been incorporated very effectively into the play by Dan Gillespie Sells, and the ivories are tinkled cleverly by Puck (aka Bobby Delaney) as an alternative to his traditional flute. In addition though the piano itself is used extensively – in magical appearances, as an improvised bed, and makes a pedestal to perform from.
The cast members are truly amazing, and it would be difficult to give them all due mention. Lovers Hermia and Lysander (Patricia Allison and Lorne Macfadyen) and Helena and Demetrius (Evelyn Miller and Toheeb Jimoh) are skilled and energetic. It is tempting to wonder why the wardrobe department dressed Hermia in a strange yellow jumpsuit, but it becomes apparent when she starts to move…
The royal fairy couple Oberon and Titania played by Phil Cheadle and Pandora Colin double as duke and prospective duchess Theseus and Hippolyta, and are dignified and effective in both roles. The fairies become the tradesmen performing amateur dramatics, and all are excellent, the play Pyramus and Thisbe that they perform at the wedding finale has to be seen to be believed. Shakespeare was never like this, never so glittery, never so brash and loud, “course it’s a musical”, “do you want to hear our megamix?” – but it works, it really does. Possibly the star of the whole show is Snug/blue fairy/fearsome lion, Francesca Mills, with facial expressions and tap dancing out of this world.
The costumes are colourful as befits the set. The production seems to be set in no particular time period, but the males wear smart suits in pastel colours; the royal fairy couple are attired in elegant bedwear; the fairy dresses are perfect, and there’s a nice touch where the lead females have nails coloured to match their outfits.
Go along and enter a fairy world for a couple of hours, the magic can draw anyone in. As the complete solar system lights up behind that magical moon in the closing scenes, it’s a shock to realise that actually bustling city of Sheffield is the other side of that wall.
Runs until Saturday 20 October 2018 | Image: Contributed