Metatheatre, sexy tunes, a food fight and iambic pentameter – what’s not to love? 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre have decided to have fun with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directors Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll’s adaptation is a celebration of the entertainment value inherent in the play.
This play-within-a-play-within-a-play has done away with so many conventions, but delightfully, the delivery of Shakespeare’s text is impeccably strong throughout. Ed Gaughan shines as Peter Quince, his Corkonian interlocution shattering all audience expectation. Portraying Puck as a weathered roadie is a stroke of genius; Ferdy Roberts maintains character throughout with excellent comic timing. Of all the lovers, Clare Dunne is pitch perfect as Helena the desperate Dubliner, another inspired directorial choice. Harry Jardine is Oberon, King of the Fairies, no longer imposing, but nerdy and pathetic. Instead of opting for an obvious twinkly-woodland setting, Hyemi Shin’s set is a nod to Peter Brook’s famous 1970 production with the RSC. The entire cast is brilliant to watch, navigating the text and the complex system of props with ease. The Rude Mechanicals and Puck double as sound engineers and live instrumentalists. The innovative sound design and original music by Chris Branch and Tom Haines are just wonderful.
This production uses Shakespeare’s text as a diving board for chaotic fun and games (I was only short of climbing up on stage to join in). The staging is about as far away from Shakespearean tradition as you could possibly get, but plays homage to the spirit of the piece, perhaps capturing it better than any traditional production possibly could for a modern audience. It has a Fringe-y feel to it, which is quite a surprise in the setting of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Would I want my Shakespeare served up like this every time? God, no – but with Midsummer, it just works.