If you think you’re having quite a weird summer, spare a thought for the characters in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Not only do they live in an Athens that looks nothing like Athens (the Greek capital isn’t famous for its dense forests), there are fairies running about, builders putting on plays in the middle of the night and a man called Bottom who gets turned into a donkey. It’s the latest play to stream in the Globe’s free online season, in a production from waaay back in 2013, starring Michelle Terry as fairy queen Titania.
The ostensible explanation for the barmy plot of ‘AMND’, is that it’s midsummer – the longest day – and anything can happen. A more cynical one is that it gives theatre companies almost limitless scope for costumes, casting, scenery, song and dance, and general mucking about, which is why it’s always been a popular fave in Shakespeare’s canon. There have been loads of versions in London over recent years, most recently a genderfluid outing from Nicholas Hytner and a hot technicolour mess from the Globe last year.
This 2013 version directed by Dominic Dromgoole plays it a bit more straight (and muddy), but is no worse for that. When we reviewed it, we thought it found ‘the Globe at its crowd-pleasing best, a hearty and hilarious night of feral fairies, mud-spattered lovers and clodhopping mechanicals.’
It’s not all silliness, though. This production identifies the uncanny darkness that underlies the comedy and hints at themes of loss of self and madness. ‘Draped in leather and animal furs, and covered in mud, the phantasmal monarchs and their court are not fey, twinkling sprites but mercurial beasts of the medieval forest. John Light is by turns scary and hilarious as a powerful Oberon following a wild, unfathomable internal logic; Matthew Tennyson is a hoot as his boyish, understandably confused sidekick Puck. And Michelle Terry is a potent Titania who faces down the bizarre plotting of her husband with great grace.’
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is streaming for free from 7pm BST tonight (Mon Jun 15) on the Globe’s YouTube channel. It’s available for two weeks.
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