Review, RSC, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stratford-upon-Avon by James Ellis

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In this brandnew production of Dream from the RSC comes delight, humour and awe. I first got my teeth in the play in college and fell in love with it ever since.

There is real joy here, director Eleanor Rhode has gone all out with massive scope. Lucy Osborne’s design is multi-coloured filling the stage with ladders, giant hanging orbs and soaring platforms. Another huge element to proceedings is John Bulleid as illusion director and designer. The magic on display is nothing sort of astounding, the video work and little lights in the actors palms are also really nice touches. This all works wonders in the space.

The band are another sensation, thanks to the score of Will Gregory brimming with sass, flair and nods to several genres. The cast are huge and marvellous. Much marketing has been done on Mathew Bayton as Bottom, which is valued (can’t get over the appalling sideburns!) but the rest of the cast are also stars and rising talent. Mathew plays the role with his usual wide eyed mirth, a snapping comic timing and an understated insecurity that Bottom calls for. His donkey transformation sees ears which can move of their own accord, one of many funny moments. From Romeo & Julie and Machinal, Rosie Sheehy as Puck was a familar face. She works mightly well in the role, the image of Heath Leger’s Joker, one of several punk trappings. I love her ornamented accent in the role, brimming with grit, bite, resentment and a wistful endurance.

Many cast members stand out and there is much to shout about. The lovers shine Hermia, Demetrius, Lysander and Helena thanks to the efforts of razor sharp quartet: Dawn Sievewright, Nicholas Armfield, Ryan Hutton and Boadicea Ricketts. There absurd little moments are noteworthy, the lovers should be particularly physical and highly caffeinated. Ryan’s leaping, Nicholas’ marital arts postures, Boadicea’s shrieking and Dawn’s rages are left in the brain. The rest of The Mechanicals shine, the indifference of Emily Cundick’s Snout, Snug from Laurie Jamieson as a lovable dimwit. The Pyramus and Thisbe wrap up should be the funniest scene of the play and here it was. Given a loving send up of Giallo horror films, with plenty of deep red blood and cheap, anxious keyboard chords to boot.

Helen Monks is Peter Quince the flustered director for their little play, not really seen enough in the role. As Starveling, Premi Tamang came into her own as Moon in the outlandish Pyramus set, her smug face and flickering torch is one of my favourite moments. Nitesh Soni as Flute is another adorable addition to the actors group, another comedic discovery. We don’t see as such the Forrest Nymphs, though the light and effects did most of the work here, each of the actors voiced the tiny roles with conviction. Barry Gill as Theseus faired well in delivery, though I found he did little with a straight laced Oberon, though this punk attire was a standout. Airline Saba, as both Titania and Hippolyta exuded a fierce persona for each and a sensusal use of mannerism. Neil McCaul seen for a shortlist while at the start and end is Egeus, outraged over the young lovers actions, as the show starts off with a serious tone.

I’ve left little of the story out of this review, it being pretty well known. I would recommend a trip to Stratford for this gem of a show.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs till 30 March 2024.

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