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LATITUDE 2016: Action To The Word – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Alexandra Spencer-Jones
Venue: Theatre Tent
Reviewer: Kris Hallett


So often the Dream is seen as the perfect family Shakespeare, a jolly few hours of magic, comedy and romantic entanglement in the wood. At the heart though is heat; the blazing sunshine of an Athenian summer and the raging horniness of lovers and fairies, who Shakespeare spells out, engage in flagrante in the wood.

Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones pushes sex to the fore, by far the sexiest version of the piece this reviewer has seen, the characters in the wood stripping off to engage in an orgy that twists limb against limb in a melange of fit, toned bodies, rippling six packs and pert bums. It sometimes has the feel of a Victoria Secrets show, if nothing else Action To The Word’s casting director has the speed dial of the fittest young actors around.

It suffers from the same issues that befell Dracula last year. Spencer-Jones creates strong stage image, her compositions are almost painterly but the acting can be a bit ropey at times. It’s not helped by being played in the cavernous theatre arena with stage mics that cut in and out. Some actors pitch their performances too high, some too low, very few hit the sweet spot. When the piece embraces the physicality it feels most confident, in its verse speaking less assured. This means the scenes in the forest are enthralling, the players scene less so. Also, for a show that bills its major influence as the circus, there is very little of it on show here and what there is feels a little superfluous.

There is something impressive in the times of the small scale work, of the companies ambition and stage know how. If they can find a more nuanced level of performance to go with the bigger picture they could really be a company going places.


Image: Jen O’Neill

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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