A Midsummer Night's Dream
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Cowering beneath an awning, Oberon flinches as he watches the fruits of his labour turn rotten. Rather than uniting two lovers, The King of Fairies’ magic dust has created chaos. The resulting spat, as the pink-clad Hermia and Helena slap and slag each other off, is like a particularly exuberant outtake from ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’.
If you like your Shakespearean comedy dark and nuanced, Iris Theatre’s promenade show, set in the grounds of St Paul’s Church, won’t be for you. But if you prefer it broad, brash and with just the right sprinkling of adult cynicism, you’ll relish Dan Winder’s finely pitched show – his fairies look like superheroes on an off day.
Peter Manchester is brilliant as the meddling Oberon, whose lightning streaked make-up and puffball costume are as madcap as his misfiring magic tricks. His sidekick Puck, so often given a sinister twist in contemporary productions, is cartoonish. As Hywel Bayne sprints and spirals around, it’s as if a Tasmanian devil has muscled its way into ‘Midsummer’.
Helen Coyston’s set makes clever use of a compact but variable courtyard. Coloured sheets create rough-edged frameworks and kitchen utensils, hanging and clanging from the trees, complement the show’s slapdash silliness. There is also pathos to be found, as the disenchanted Bottom mourns the revels’ end. Mellalieu’s Bottom is a hit with the kids but, as the light fades, even enjoyably hammy style turns meaty.