‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ review
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Sean Holmes directs a terrifyingly OTT take on Shakespeare’s beloved comedy
When ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is trotted out so regularly – in London alone, there are three big ones on this summer – you can see why a director would want to make their version memorable. And if there’s one thing for certain to say about Sean Holmes’s production at the Globe, it’s that it definitely doesn’t fade into the background.
The entire show is pitched somewhere between a first-week freshers’ party and the birthday celebration of a really spoilt five-year-old. There are piñatas, streamers, glitter face paint, pink hair, loads of deely boppers, audience interaction on the level of a Christmas show and giant balloon letters. Members of the Hackney Colliery Band proudly toot and drum throughout with an impressive energy similar to that of the band that follows the England football team to matches.
The real talking point, though, is Jean Chan’s costumes. Theseus (Peter Bourke) struts on stage like a sugarplum dictator in a pink satin military costume, while his wife Hippolyta (Victoria Elliott) is done up as Elizabeth II in a psychedelic fantasy. The Athenians are in cosplay Tudor with their ruffs turned into asymmetric wings or shoulder pieces. Oberon (also Bourke) is dressed as a fancy chair. And the rest look like various versions of that person you really, really want to avoid camping next to at a festival.
Sometimes the ‘everything in the party box and then more more more’ vibe works, the crowd get behind it and it’s genuinely funny. At other points it doesn’t and feels like one of those CBeebies Shakespeare specials, only with more dry humping.
The play-within-a-play scenes are given more stage time and emphasis than those with the lost lovers in the wood, making the main plot a background hum. Save for a few sweet moments between Hermia (Faith Omole) and Lysander (Ekow Quartey), there’s almost never a point when the tone is anything other than full-on wahey wooden ‘O’ party time.
If you can utter the words ‘organised fun’ without irony, buy a ticket. If you’ve ever considered buying a self-help book for introverts, don’t.