In the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s life, it seems that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is popping up all over the country. Actually, if you are looking to dip your toe into the Bard’s work, this is probably the best place to start.

It’s probably one of the most well known stories worldwide but just in case…Lysander and Hermia are in love. Demetrius also loves Hermia but Helena loves Demetrius. Hermia’s father threatens his daughter if she doesn’t marry Demetrius, so the lovers flee to the forest. Hermia confides their plans to Helena who tells Demetrius, in an attempt to win his affection. A fairy, Puck gets confused when the king of the fairies instructs him to cast a spell on the lovers and things get a little messy…

Despite using the original Shakespearian text, it’s the physical comedy, tones and occasional adlibbing that makes this production¬†so easy to engage with. Even as an ex English Literature student, the language can often feel alienating without a heavily annotated Cliff Notes at hand which really credits just how skilfully this take on the play is.

The play doesn’t fall back on any gimmicks but focuses solely on the characters and storyline in a way that would make Shakespeare proud. The characters are not limited to the sex of their actor for example both Oberon and Titiana – who double up as the duke and duchess – are both played by women. Although it isn’t clear if this is intentional, it also seems like they aren’t trying to play the opposite sex either – another common theme of Shakespeare adaptations this year.

The only flaw is the fault of the writer and not at all the fault of the cast but by the final wedding scene, the play feels like it’s dragging a tad. The story of Theseus and Hyppolyta, performed as a play within a play for the wedding is so brilliantly funny but also feels rather slow. The performing troop deliver an absurd yet wonderful short tragedy that’s far from tragic with Bottom’s (Jack J Fairley) melodramatic death, Hyppolyta’s (Robbie Curran) girly mannerisms, a talking wall (Ben Lydon), balletic moon (Elly Lowney) and angry lion (Christie Peto), all lead by Quince (Harriet Ruffer).

The initial punk appearance is quite confusing but when the music begins everything falls into place. The Pink Floyd t-shirts surprisingly fit in with the story in an unexpected but incredibly clever way. The cast play their own instruments on stage and the music is central to most scenes.

Overall this a fantastic take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream for everyone from the the Shakespeare novice to his number one fan. It’s quite simple and there’s no extra frills but its pace and wit make it a summer night not to miss.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays Jack Studio Theatre until 23 July 2016. For more information and tickets, see Jack Studio website.

 

Photo: Jamie Chandler