A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare’s Globe review
“I have had a most rare vision. I had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”
— Act 4, Scene 1
A Midsummer Night’s Dream recounts a slumbering tale of forest fairies and fanciful folly. As one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays – it is praised for both its romantic and comedic themes – as well as its accessibility. Sean Holmes’s production certainly does these aspects justice.
Complete with extravagant costumes, courtesy of Jean Chan, the carnivalesque atmosphere is fully embraced in the performance. Titania – the whimsical fairy queen played by Victoria Elliott – is adorned in bright blues and purples to engage with the fantastical plot of the play.
From Puck’s headband sprouts golden stars, a visual invocation of his spritely spirit. Multiple actors share the role, engaging with the sleepy confusion of the play. Their matching eponymous white t-shirts – written in what would appear to be coloured gel pens – puts a modern twist on the Elizabethan reminiscence.
Holmes’s production is shrouded in extravagance and rainbows. Multi-coloured bunting hangs from the ceiling of the stage, conveying the forest fairyland in which the play takes place. Modern objects and items of fashion – like air beds and Doc Martens – add another layer of comedy and visual engagement for a contemporary audience.
While the language mostly stays true to its Elizabethan roots, mischievous asides and audience interactions feature comical vernacular and pop culture references. Across time, the play has proved itself ageless in this quest for accessibility. The production is a wonderful homage to that aspect.
This artisanal, dreamy aesthetic is emphasised all the more by its musical accompaniment. The Hackney Colliery Band – positioned in the upper stage – provide jazz interludes, fairy-like flutes and beaming brasses which guide the characters through their dream sequences.
The never-ending surrealism makes for an endlessly entertaining experience. The quick costume changes and high energy of the actors is constantly engaging, not to mention the audience interaction and participation throughout the play.
The October rain couldn’t drown the spirits of those in attendance as cheers and applause were customary at the end of every scene. Those in the standing area were blessed with participatory roles, engaging with improvisational asides and immersing themselves closer to the stage.
This, of course, is inherent to the play’s experience. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as clever as it is funny, with its play-within-a-play conceit mirroring the actions of the audience. The paralleled marital scenes were dramatically executed, appealing to both the satirical and romantic meanings in the play.
As such, Holmes’s production masterfully engaged with both the magic and the mystery of the play, while also keeping to its comedic effervescence. If you would like to find out more about Shakespeare productions at The Globe, go to: https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on.