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A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare

Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

Directed by Nick Bagnall
Designer Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting Designer James Fortune
Sound Designer Peter Rice
Until Saturday April 8th
Box Office: 0151709 4476

Displaying more menace than mischief, Director Nick Bagnall’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream currently at The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool explores the more nightmarish elements of Shakespeare’s play.  Set in a monochrome world of Hitchcockian delirium, Garry Cooper’s Oberon looks as if he’d be quite at home taking tea with the Krays, whilst the sinister fairies in their black gimp masks look like nothing so much as executioners.

And fair enough. All is not well, either in this world or the other. The magical realm is riven by the spite-fest between jealous Oberon and Titania over a coveted changeling, whilst the seemingly orderly state of Athens offers lovelorn Hermia (played very ably by Charlotte Hope) a draconian choice between a loveless marriage, death or the nunnery. From this spins a comedy of mismatched lovers, where it becomes possible that the man who proclaimed his undying love for you mere hours earlier, awakes from his slumbers to spurn you, and that a queen might take a donkey to her bosom. A nightmare indeed, albeit Shakespeare does tell is rather amusingly.

Visually, this production is strong. The unlucky lovers are dressed as uniformed sixth-formers, which sums up the anguish of first love in one stroke of genius. The simplicity of the staging, where sheets of crumpled paper form the woods at night, is arresting, if a little noisy at times, and cleverly creates a textured landscape in which folk and fairies alike stumble and conceal themselves.

Into this world of unrelenting black and white, comes a little colour. Or rather, in bounces a large dollop of pigment, in the form of Peter Quince’s troupe, dressed in Belisha Beacon orange. Dean Nolan is as luminous (in every sense of the word) as he is hilarious as Bottom, the unwitting ass. Channelling Brian Blessed at his most camp, he inhabits the stage with implausible and thundering agility.

The overall impression is that of a high-vis road gang working on the highway, which serves as a visual metaphor for a play that takes place at the crossroads of waking and sleeping, light and dark.

Indeed, it’s a muscular interpretation, but therein lies the problem. The comedy is as robust as the dark menace, and certainly it is very funny. But what price brawn?  Whilst the Athenian lovers do much to convince and the artisan actors bring the house down, the fairies are charmless. Bagnall’s beefy flavours are at the cost of any delicacy. Like Cynthia Erivo’s gymnastic tail-coated master of ceremonies, Puck:  it eschews the ethereal for the athletic yet ultimately fails to enchant.

Miranda Humphreys-Green



Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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