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National Youth Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Criterion Theatre, London

Reviewer: Laura Rinati

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Matt Harrison

Let’s be honest: so many productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have attempted to make it new, more relevant, original and eccentric. There’s a problem: this Shakespeare’s comedy is already all that, and more. Do you know any other classics featuring a mischievous prankster drugging the queen of fairies into falling in love with a human turned into an ass? If so, please send info.

That’s why reading that the National Youth Theatre’s production at the Criteron Theatre is set at a seaside-inspired by Whitby (North Yorkshire) and playing with gender fluidity, might leave you slightly sceptical. You might think: ‘here we go, another trying-to-hard-to-be-different performance of a basically already impeccable play’. Well, Matt Harrison’s direction in this extremely playful, hilarious and very polished performance will leave you pleasantly surprised.

The use of props and locations on the seaside, such as the fish and chip shop, makes the play more engaging, younger and creates an inviting contemporary Shakespearean world adding another layer of unscripted humour. The gender fluidity of the characters also seems fitting in a comedy aimed for the young- let’s not forget that after all, the play talks about love, pranks, fairies, and drugs.

The simplicity of the set and costumes and the interesting use of helium balloons on stage, – which leave the audience free to interpretation (and entertainment, should you find yourself bored by the actual performance) add, together with the music, a dream-like mood to the whole experience.

Jemina Mayala as Nick Bottom steals the show- even though the brilliantly written character is hard to mess up, Mayala does an amazing job with a captivating physicality and an impeccable comedy timing. She is, at the end of the day, playing… an ass.  Ella Dacres’s Puck brings an extra groove of playfulness and lightness which is Shakespeare’s aims in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: to escape the harshness of life for an evening of fun. And that is exactly the experience you’ll have watching this successful production.

Runs until: 17th January 2020

The Reviews Hub Score

Creatively Modern

User Rating: 3.36 ( 5 votes)
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