The Abbey is never afraid to push the boat out when it comes to Shakespeare and Gavin Quinn’s latest take on the mischievous Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. Set in a nursing home to the clatter of walkers and zimmerframes, four crumbling old lovers are given a new lease of life when the home is transformed into a sickly yellow-tinted forest for them to cavort in. Potions are administered via drip and oxygen mask, and the clinical smell of mortality is impossible to wash out, however the vitality of the performers commands you to forget the aching joints of day to day and fall into the fairy forest with them.
John Kavanagh and Gina Moxley in particular need to be commended for bombastic turns as Lysander and Helena respectively, and it’s worth the price of admission alone to see Dan Reardon in skinny jeans and Peadar Lamb in drag, but the stealers of the show are without a doubt Bottom and the Rude Mechanicals, whose every return to grace the stage is a joy of irreverence. This is a production that shakes out the cobwebs of both the Bard’s work and the performers and insists – there’s life in the old dog yet.
With a cast that can boast a collective age greater than some small nations, pace is key to keep the audience engaged, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream does have a tendency to flag between cavortings. But when the ante is upped, there are laughs aplenty and a healthy dose of poignancy too, as mortality looms loud over the action and the fairy folk punctuate the scene with sonnets that remind us of the fragility of the love that flickers between our protagonists on stage.
Overall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a somewhat slow moving beast that proves to be well worth the wait once it gets going.