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A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wilton’s Music Hall | Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream 2020 - Pamela Raith Photography.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2020 – Pamela Raith Photography.

If the Watermill Ensemble’s production of Macbeth came across as being more suited to those who hadn’t encountered that play for the first time, their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (playing in repertory) is, on balance, better enjoyed by those who have encountered it before. This being Shakespeare, of course, there are bound to be a lot of people who have. But there probably haven’t been many productions that seamlessly incorporate tunes like Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Blue Moon’ and the oft-recorded 1930 song ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’.

Despite the benefit of microphones, however, it wasn’t always easy to hear what was being said or sung when the music was playing – though the production should be congratulated for its commitment to actor-musicianship. It’s a comedy, of course, and therefore it’s entirely possible to just sit back and let the music wash over you, though there’s still a play to be performed (and a play within a play) so the musical interludes are fleeting.

The second half is better than the first, which I suppose is better than the other way around – and there’s some (presumably) blind casting going on, which Bottom (Victoria Blunt, standing in for Lauryn Redding at the performance I attended) being a woman, as is Puck (Molly Chesworth). Lucy Keirl’s Hermia is far from short, making Helena’s (Robyn Sinclair) line, “And though she be but little, she is fierce” in Act III Scene II all the more amusing – at the risk of giving too much away, Hermia and Helena in this production are more or less the same height.

There are some laugh-out-loud moments to be enjoyed here, which manages, for all the various open-air productions of this play in the summer every year without fail, to inject some originality into proceedings – even if fairies being dressed in formal dinner jackets and top hats is a little odd. Suspending disbelief at the theatre doors and all that, it’s not always entirely clear what exactly is going on, but somehow or other, interest was adequately maintained.

It’s the Pyramus and Thisbe ‘play within a play’ that proved more interesting than the parallel story involving Oberon (Jamie Satterthwaite) and Titania (Emma McDonald). The costumes reflect a resetting to the Victorian period (I think: it could have been Edwardian), and the production makes good use of the performance space, including the theatre’s balcony. If you’re the kind of theatregoer that must see who is speaking at all times, depending on your precise vantage point, be prepared to twist around on occasion.

I thought the staging and scenery could have done a little better in terms of transporting the story into (and back out of) the world of the fairies. And then there’s the quartet, as manipulated by the fairies as the actors in the play within the play are – Hermia, Helena, Lysander (Billy Postlethwaite) and Demetrius (Mike Slader). The dynamics between the latter two are quite mesmerising when they reach their peak, with Postlethwaite’s Lysander displaying some brilliant stage presence. Tom Sowinski’s Theseus almost steals the show as ‘the wall’, and in the end, this is a sufficiently decent and energetic performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Enter a world of dreams and desire in this soulful and spellbinding comedy. The Watermill Ensemble return following the success of Twelfth Night at Wilton’s in 2018. Fizzing wit…

Cast
Molly Chesworth
Lucy Keirl
Emma McDonald
Peter Mooney
Billy Postlethwaite
Lauryn Redding
Jamie Satterthwaite
Robyn Sinclair
Tom Sowinski
Mike Slader

Creative Team
Directed by Paul Hart
Designed by Katie Lias
Movement by Tom Jackson Greaves
Lighting designed by Tom White
Sound designed by David Gregory
Video projection design by Louise Rhoades-Brown
Musical Direction by Maimuna Memon
Assistant Musical Direction by Max Runham
Arrangements and additional music by Maimuna Memon and The Company
Associate Director Robert Kirby
Associate Movement Director Anjali Mehra
Dramaturg Danielle Pearson
Fight Director Ian McCracken

WATERMILL ENSEMBLE
presents
MACBETH & A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
By William Shakespeare
JANUARY 22nd to FEBRUARY 15th 2020
https://www.wiltons.org.uk/

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