This festival inspired version of A Midsummer Night’s dream is beautifully playful.
Enhancing the magic and dreamy qualities of the play, Nicholas Hytner’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delightful two hours of comedy, love and misunderstandings.
There is no denying that this is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays and it is easy to see why here with its ability to transport the audience into an enchanted forest filled with fairies who use their magic to play a trick on four lovers which sees them switching their affections from one another. It has a feel of a music festival about it, helped by the contemporary music used in it that helps make the play feel relevant.
But there are other twists and turns along the way that also keep the themes of the play up to date for today’s audience – such as the fairies mixing the couples up to same-sex relationships (if briefly) is a lovely touch and adds to the whole feeling that the play is a celebration of love in all forms. Elsewhere, I loved the way in which it is Oberon who falls for Bottom instead of Titania adding extra moments of comedy towards the end of the first act. This also allows the character to have a slightly more of a role in what unfolds.
Nicholas Hytner’s production has a real sense of mischievousness about it that keeps the audience very much in the story. This is particularly reflected in the performances that the cast put in, such as David Moorst’s delightfully cheeky Puck, who delightfully engages with audience and moves around with great impishness. It is a performance that immediately grabs the attention, particularly when he realises the mistake he has made with the relationships at the centre of the story.
Visually, everything is kept quite low-key in terms of Christina Cunningham’s costumes and Bunny Christie’s multi-layered set design , which again helps to ensure that the story is relatable to the audience – but don’t worry there is still plenty of glitter involved! The way in which Arlene Philips has choreographed the movement, ensures that the production retains its fluidity – particularly in terms of gracefulness of the fairies movement.
Initially, it has to be said the production feels slightly taught and reluctant to relax in early scenes involving Hippolyta and Theseus, but once the action takes place in the forest it comes across as more confident and able to flow better.
But the performances are all glorious. In particular, Hammed Animashaun as Bottom is a real force of energy and a delight every step of the way, his chemistry with Oliver Chris as Oberon utterly charming – as seen when they first meet and dance together. He offers a bold performance but never overshadows anyone else on stage. Oliver Chris is also immensely hilarious and enjoyable as Oberon, his charm and brilliant comic timing enhancing the scenes he is in. There is also great sincerity and energy provided in the performances of Isis Hainsworth (Hermia), Tessa Bonham Jones (Helena), Paul Adeyefa (Demetrius) and Kit Young (Lysander).
This is a production that makes you see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a new light. It is a true celebration of love and magic handled in a light and delicate way by Nicholas Hytner.
By Emma Clarendon
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is available to watch until the 2nd July.