Writer: William Shakespeare
Directors: Sean Holmes andStef O’Driscoll
Reviewer: Liam Harrison
Filter’s playfully chaotic A Midsummer Night’s Dream aims to be cleverly creative enough with Shakespeare’s script to please Shakespeareans, while shaken up enough for those with less fond memories of schooldays Shakespeare. It is a performance which is heavy on the laughs, often summoned by Oberon, dressed like a Pixar character in a skin tight superhero costume. As you may have guessed, the production veers away from the ‘traditionalist’ side of things.
Stand-up comedian Peter Quince opens the night chewing the cud and asking us what we know about the play. Quince’s range throughout sets the tone for the fluctuating performance. His subject matter switches seamlessly between meta-fictional alienation techniques, “the play within the play”, and bum jokes – “enter Bottom isn’t a line!” Quince also builds up the surprise casting of Bottom with dextrous comic timing.
The show indulges in bringing out the camp and rambunctious elements of AMidsummer Night’s Dream. The cast is suitably animated for the task. A punk roadie Puck destroys half the stage by himself. Lysander is particularly foxy, he is all hips, snarls and thrusts after he’s struck by Puck’s potent love potion. Yet for all the flamboyant theatrics, Bottom’s grand transformation into an ass is subtly handled by some Python-esque coconut shells played as hooves.
However, amid the anarchy the talent in the production is in danger of being drowned out. Helena’s earnest pleas of heartbreak are swamped by the frivolity of the forest hijinks (not to mention a food fight). The performance particularly revels in distorted gags based on the original. In the Shakespearean slagging match between Hermia and Helena, “Painted Maypoll”, becomes more fitting than ever, as Puck’s potion is a splatter of electric blue paint, splashed provocatively across the faces of the lovers.
The music and soundscape conjure up techniques which deserve more of a chance for exploration, instead of the preference for one-liners. The production at times errs too far towards the pantomime side of things, as the comedy and slapstick can feel a bit self-indulgent. But on the whole the performance is certainly a crowd-pleaser, and it is only for a minority of traditionalists that it will feel like “a fierce vexation” of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Runs until 1 of October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival | Image: contributed