‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ review

Theatre, Shakespeare
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(15user reviews)
 (© Manuel Harlan)
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© Manuel Harlan David Moorst (Puck) and Gwendoline Christie (Titania)
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© Manuel Harlan Hammed Animashaun (Bottom)
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© Manuel Harlan Centre Gwendoline Christie (Hippolyta)
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© Manuel Harlan Oliver Chris (Theseus), Gwendoline Christie (Hippolyta), Isis Hainsworth (Hermia) and Kevin McMonagle (Egeus)
 (© Manuel Harlan)
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© Manuel Harlan Felicity Montagu (Quince) and Hammed Animashaun (Bottom)
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© Manuel Harlan Oliver Chris (Oberon), Gwendoline Christie (Titania) and David Moorst (Puck)
 (© Manuel Harlan)
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© Manuel Harlan Jermaine Freeman,Hammed Animashaun, Felicity Montagu, Francis Lovehall, Jamie-Rose Monk, Ami Metcalf (The Mechanicals)
 (© Manuel Harlan)
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© Manuel Harlan The Fairies
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© Manuel Harlan
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© Manuel Harlan
 (© Manuel Harlan)
11/11
© Manuel Harlan

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Nicholas Hytner directs a joyously OTT, genderfluid ‘Dream’ with a cast to die for

‘For fuck’s sake,’ mumbled a member of the Bridge Theatre crew as he sprinted past me. It was three hours since Nicholas Hytner’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ had begun and it was unclear as to whether it had technically finished or not. But it probably had, as the unfortunate staff member was trying to retrieve one of the two enormous glowing moon balls that the audience was still furiously punching around the theatre. Meanwhile, to my right, the actual Brienne of Tarth was having a boogie. It’s quite possible that she’s still there now.

A weird dream? Nope: just Hytner finally tackling Shakespeare’s beloved comedy. Usually his modern-dress takes on the Bard are precise and revelatory, and certainly he applies *some* of his usual rigour here; but then there’s the feeling that he just got stumped by what is effectively a story about some fairies banging in a wood and decided that – screw it – he might gobble a couple of pills for inspiration (NB I am sure that Sir Nicholas did not actually do this). The results are messy, sprawling and quite glorious.

Integral to Hytner’s vision is the effective swapping of the roles of fairy king Oberon (Hytner regular Oliver Chris) and queen Titania (towering ‘Game of Thrones’ star Gwendoline Christie). They hold on to their names and genders, but the dialogue is mostly reversed, making it a story of how Titania and her servant Puck (David Moorst) get one over on sensitive Oberon by making him fall in love with Hammed Animashaun’s brilliant Bottom, a savant-ish weaver rehearsing a dreadful play in the fairies’ woods.

This has two effects. One, it very nearly creates a coherent through-thread. As usual, the actors playing Oberon and Titania double up as Theseus and Hippolyta, the Duke of Athens and his captive bride-to-be. Here, Hytner suggests that Hippolyta – literally held in a display tank – has magic powers (hey, it’s already a play about fairies) and that the bulk of the play is fact a dream of Theseus’s, as manipulated by Hippolyta/Titania (who seems to be explicitly the same character).

And two, it sets the tone for a riotously gender-fluid immersive production that generally feels like designer Bunny Christie’s main inspiration was Pride (it is that time of year). When Oberon and Bottom finally get it on, surrounded by dancing fairies, while Beyoncé (obvs) thunders from the PA, it is cheesy, silly, predictable, subversive and joyous.

There isn’t a huge amount to ‘do’ if you’re part of the standing audience, but there is something inclusive and fun about being in the increasingly giddy midst of it all, of being up close while various guilty pop pleasures blare away, and cast members leap out of the beds that surround us or descend from the silks above.

Even if you ignore all the bells, whistles and man-snogs, the fact of the matter is that Hytner has assembled a preposterously good comedy cast. For me, Animashaun’s guileless, enthusiastic Bottom was probably man of the match, but Chris’s sensitive Oberon, Christie’s ethereal Hippolyta/Titania and Moorst’s twitchily anarchic Puck were all tip-top, as were the marvellously detailed smaller performances from the fairies, lovers and Mechanicals. It is quite something when a production can have an actor as good as Felicity Montagu – aka Alan Partridge’s PA Lynn – in the relatively minor role of a luuvie-ish take on the Mechanicals’ leader Peter Quince. But she’s funny, and having fun, and so are we.

This production is probably not going to seriously alter how anyone does this play. With the best will in the world, it is probably a bit too long and overstuffed with ideas. But those are dry observations, after the event. In the moment, as the whole thing sort of collapses into a massive cast-audience dance party – complete with giant moon balls! – it’s a real wrench to remember we can’t just hide out in these woods for ever.

Details

Users say (15)

5 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|15
2 people listening

Echo everyone here. Glorious. The Bridge is doing Shakespeare so beautifully. Now that the RSC has become a joke, both southbank companies, Globe and The Bridge, are flyimg the flag high. The immersive experience works a treat and time just flew by. Rush to see this. One of the best Shakespeare productions you will see this year!


So brilliantly well done! 100% go for pit tickets as this is where the action happens if you're OK standing for a few hours (you aren't glued to the spot and can wander around). Such an engaging and interesting version of the play, whilst staying true to the Shakespearean script for the most part. 


I can't remember when I last had so much fun at the theatre. The staging is fantastic, as is the acting and it's impossible not to get swept up in the wonderful silliness of it all. 


A very modern take on "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The production is fully immersive and executed with precision, I thoroughly enjoyed! :) 


As a first timer in immersive type of theatre, I like the idea and I also loved the play with all its small gems thrown into it. Usually modern adaptations are not that good but this one was in good taste in my opinion and we had a good time. Only drawback, you need to be prepared to stand for 3hrs.


Not just another Shakespeare play... the pit is the place to be if you can stand for 3 hours as you're in the thick of the action. Really fun and immersive and a great venue. 


Went to this play and it was the most fun play we've been to! (it is NOT a pantomime)

Should go for the Immersive Pit experience if you can stand for an hour, since it's not just being close to it, but the play involves you in the fun and celebrations that are sometimes involved, and you get quite close to the actors and performers. Galleries would be missing out on this...

Also the stage is raised, so you will be able to see the play even if your shorter. The stage is dynamic so the audience moves around a bit so if you need to get a better position, you will have chances to.


Acting is great, they have some good recognisable talent here as well as great performances.


They use Shakespearean english as befits a Shakespeare play, although even if you are not used to Shakespearean english or his plays, you will understand what is going on as there is a cohesive storyline. Highly recommend it!


For a first immersive experience it was definitely very interesting and entertaining; being part of the plot to some extent and even becoming a prop for actors on occasion definitely gave it a twist. Something to do again for sure.


This was one of the best productions of Mid Summer Night's Dream I have ever seen. Being in the pit was such a good laugh and the actors were superb. The slight modern tweaks really amped up the comedy level and the visuals were so unique. A must see. 


Loved this show! The story was easy to follow, the actors were brilliant and the immersive element in the pit added a completely new dimension. Lots of laughs and some fun modern twists made it a really great evening.


Magical and very different to other immersive shows I've attended. If you are looking for laughs, copious amounts of glitter and a great time, do check this out.


Really fantastic production of Midsummer Night's Dream.  For those who can stand for a few hours, Pit tickets are great and you're right in amongst the action.  Very clever use of modern language and humour woven in.  Wasn't sure what to expect, but the production exceeded my expectations...

Would absolutely recommend this as a must go and see...


well-acted, enjoyable take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved works, held back from being easily recommendable by the desire to put a dizzying spin on practically every element of the material.