The Watermill Ensemble’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an injection of fun, warmth, and colour. It triumphed at New Theatre with some in the audience giving a standing ovation. Loud and fabulous, it is the perfect production for all ages.
All the cast give solid performances. Emma Barclay is wonderful as Bottom. Her voice stands out not only in power but in agility. The play’s eroticism is here blunt and humorous. This production aims to please and it does. It sparkles when it uses songs, such as I Put A Spell On You and Blue Moon, cabaret lights to frame the scene, and a contemporary ironic touch. The cast succeed in being funny without being caricatural.
For all the fun, however, this take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream leaves Shakespeare out of the picture. The depth of the play is left untouched. I would have liked at least a nod to the plays’ darkness and symbolism.
With A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we enter a world of doubles and illusion. The play within a play and the intermingling world of fairies and humans function as a house of mirrors that at once distorts reality and gives a truer picture of it.
Sleep, the brother of death in Greek mythology, is used to access another reality, or, in post-Freudian terms, to travel deeper into our consciousness. The play is set in Athens, symbol of rationality, and in the woods, wild and dark. The rational day of humans is disrupted by the irrational night of the fairies.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is often disturbing in the imposition of patriarchal order, in the loss of autonomy of humans but also of Titania, Queen of the fairies, who is made into having sex with an ass. It is tragic and comic. It conjures a dream world that grants humans the ability to see beyond, to transcend themselves. The hero is Bottom, the holy fool who goes through a quasi-mystical experience.
‘I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,—and
methought I had,—but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was.’ (Act IV, 1)