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Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Theatro Technis

Thibault Lecat (Oberon) - Credit Eileen Murray
Thibault Lecat (Oberon) – Credit Eileen Murray

There’s an outdoor production every summer of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Cannizaro Park near Wimbledon Common, and the most recent Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of the play is still well within my conscious memory, so for this reviewer, seeing it indoors is something of a novelty. This production from the Acting Gymnasium is likely to rankle purists, treating or subjecting audiences to a truncated rendering of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. In my view, it was the former: others, purists or not, may beg to differ.

Pulsating through this romp of a show is a contemporary soundtrack, giving the audience something broadly relevant to listen to whilst making what would otherwise be slightly tiresome scene changes enjoyable. None of the songs go on for too long, and it’s always a good thing to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay one’s welcome.
 
A 21-strong cast of various ages and nationalities retain their natural accents – and why not? What may be termed ‘historical verisimilitude’ elsewhere is accomplished here by using a music festival as a backdrop, and a display of all the various extreme behaviours that go along with attending such an event. This doesn’t mean everyone strips off as though this were the end of the first act of the musical Hair. But what may traditionally be understood to be ‘love potion’ might well be a substance the Metropolitan Police would frown upon.

How the fairies are portrayed is of interest to me in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – simply because depicting the supernatural is hardly a walk in the park. Here, Maria Gergova, Melanie Lam Cham Kee, Mirela Petrova and Zivile Stones have even fewer lines between them than the full Shakespeare text of the play would have. They could, to be blunt, have been more other-worldly than they were – their costumes just made them look like citizens of the Roman Empire.

Those who know about A Midsummer Night’s Dream will know about the donkey’s head. It gives way here to a certain sort of mask, in keeping with the hedonistic atmosphere. The play within a play, about the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe (a story from which Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on) tends to be the comedy highlight of the performance, in a sort of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ way, because while the story itself is a tragedy, it’s supposed to be performed so badly it ends up unintentionally being a comedy. This production does not disappoint. The mechanicals bluster their way through sublimely, with Nick Bottom (Thomas Witcomb) attempting to be taken by his own hand with a wooden sword.

Very occasionally, whilst the music is playing on, a line or two is difficult to decipher. Otherwise, it all flows very smoothly, with a swift but assured progression. I do wish there were a few more localised punchlines thrown in, given the programme’s description of the production as “Shakespeare for a Camden audience”. There is an added bonus in Peter Quince (Tony Callaghan) calling out forth his actors from their respective vantage points in the audience. Maintaining the metre of the blank verse isn’t a major focus here, but the spirit of the play is conveyed wonderfully. An appropriately admirable and amusing couple of hours.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Adapted and directed by Gavin McAlinden and set in modern music Festival culture; this is a radical reimagining of Shakespeare’s tale of youth, love, sex, drugs, music, mistaken identity and bad trips!!

Following the success last year of Romeo and Juliet described by critics as ‘dazzling’, The Acting Gymnasium returns to Theatro Technis with a new and modern imagining of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy.

The Acting Gymnasium presents
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare

Performances at Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, NW1 1TT
http://www.theatrotechnis.com

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