Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Brice Stratford
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Midsummer’s Night Drollbegins with great promise as lead actor and director Brice Stratford presents a short lecture on the interregnum when the theatre was banned. Despite the law, acting persisted with some actors going to Europe to continue their craft while others stayed in England and became involved in drolls, illegal skits played out in the streets or in public houses. Very little is known about these drolls, which often focussed on scenes from familiar plays, and very few of the scripts survive. Excitingly, this may be the first time that Midsummer’s Night Drollis performed for nearly 400 years.
Unfortunately, the play doesn’t quite live up to its introduction, and although the main thrust of Shakespeare’s story is left relatively intact, and although Owle Schreame’s production is good-humoured, the result is often chaotic. The six actors dash across the stage causing mayhem and laughter, but in doing so, the story often becomes confused. The actors work hard and are clearly enjoying themselves, but this doesn’t always extend to the audience.
Concentrating mainly on Titania’s spell-induced infatuation with Bottom, and the Mechanicals’ production of their own play Pyramus and Thisbe, it still may be wise to brush up your Shakespeare before seeing this show if you want to follow the story closely. Every line is spoken archly, and, even though the actors all sport different comedy accents, the lines are all delivered in the same manner, with some stretching the metre to breaking point. It would be useful to have some interludes amidst this well-intentioned confusion.
The cast tell the story with only a few props and occasionally they bring out some creepy puppets that seem to be created out of squashes: even Bottom’s donkey mask seems to be crafted from a giant sweet potato. They also throw in an occasional ditty, but nothing matches the opening song of Wild Rover, which is performed with gusto. Perhaps they should have saved this song until the end for a real rousing finale.
Owle Schreame was set up in 2008, but in the last three years they have been researching and performing these otherwise obscure drolls. It’s an important mission, and the company should be commended for such commitment, but there’s a sense that it’s more interesting to learn about this forgotten genre than to actually see an example of it.
Runs until 17 March 2019 | Image: Contributed