Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Lu Greer
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of Shakespeare’s two truly original plays, is a story full of magic and whimsy as it tells the stories of four sets of characters and is interwoven predominantly by love. With this being the focus of the play, and it revolving around three sets of male/female pairs of lovers, it would have been easy for this all-male Propeller performance to rely on cheap tricks brought forth from the use of men playing women and while there are some jokes in this vein, it is not at all on this that the narrative or the humour of the play hinges.
As the performance begins, the audience are immediately aware of being in a dream world as the stage is decorated in nettings, drapes and suspended chairs, all washed in white (Michael Pavelka). Indeed, this sensation of being in a un-reality is extended wonderfully through the use of music as well as some wonderfully weird costume choices in the ensemble who appear to have been borne from the world of A Clockwork Orange.
During the first half of the show, the magic of the fairies is by far the most drawing aspect as they move, almost doll like, and toy with the humans. This works particularly well as the players take on multiple rôles and all becomes fairies at points, allowing the men in white to fill the stage.
Although, this use of characters in dual rôles does hit an issue towards the end as Matthew McPherson takes on both Hermia and Snug meaning that it becomes a little awkward when the two should be on stage. As the audience take their seats for the second half though, it is the comedy for which Propeller are known which takes centre stage.
While humour reigns freely, it is the play-within-a-play of Pyramus and Thisbe that utterly outdoes itself. While this was always a funny section, the performances of all of the men, and Alasdair Craig’s world class tantrum as Flute in particular, have the audience in uproar.
What is surprising in this show is not the exemplary comedy timing or side splittingly funny moments, although these are played to perfection, but is in fact the beautiful intertwining of magic within the piece. The fairies balance perfectly the fun of the magical with its foreboding side, so that the piece is brought to life entirely by their hands.
Overall then, this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows off the play to its absolute best, as it brings the audience love, magic, laughter, and even a very eloquent wall.
Runs until 29 March and continues to tour