A Midsummer Night's Dream In New Orleans

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A 'Midsummer' that heads down to the jazz-tinged Big Easy.

Shakespeare’s ‘fairy comedy’ always pops up in the summer, and it’s usually a flower-strewn, sunlight-dappled and light-hearted affair. Not so with Ruby in the Dust’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream in New Orleans’, which is set in a crumbling jazz café and the sprawling Louisiana bayous. The play rumbles with racial tensions, voodoo rituals and impromptu jazz sessions. It’s sometimes hideously off-key but it’s great to see such a risky show, that’s happy to riff so freely off the original.

Everything about director Linnie Reedman’s smoky production is dark, mysterious and even a tad malicious. The fairies are frightening, Belle Mundi’s costumes verge on the macabre and the music – including songs by Dr John and Louis Armstrong – trembles with melancholy.

Fairy King Oberon (David Monteith) and Fairy Queen Titania (Silvana Maimone) look like haunted jazz singers – with an unhealthy interest in voodoo magic.  Oberon’s fairy, Puck (Sid Phoenix), has a chalky skeletal face and gleaming red eyes. His sinister presence stalks the production. This is a Puck who takes great pleasure in wreaking havoc and many of his scenes, particularly those involving the four lost lovers, sting with fresh cruelty.

This is a sophisticated interpretation, but not everything works well. The mechanicals feel far too crude and the musicians (barring pianist Joe Evans) simply aren’t good enough. A lot of the Bard’s best lines are swallowed up by dodgy southern accents and the final dumb show is painfully dull. But there’s magic and intrigue – and plenty of surprises – in this moody ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.



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