Tamsin Carrol as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Published: 14 June, 2012
by HOWARD LOXTON
Shakespeare’s comedy, with its bosky setting was once an automatic component of the Open Air Theatre season, ideal for a summer night in the park.
After some years missing, now it is back but looking very different.
This is Shakespeare with an Essex accent with a liberal helping of my Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
On the concrete platform already seen for Ragtime, an encampment of caravans houses gypsy road workers and a band of fairies whose queen rises streaming with water from a pond.
On opening night cast and plastic-macked audience faced the kind of weather that in the play results from the feud between fairy king Oberon and his queen Titania: flooded greens and ruined crops. England had a summer like that just before Shakespeare wrote it and a wet night is perhaps more fitting than warm summer evenings, however pleasant.
In fact, with no let-up likely, the show was halted half-way through, but Matthew Dunster’s iconoclastic treatment was already proving an audience pleaser.
Most would happily have continued in the rain.
Theseus is marrying the Amazon Hippolyta after beating her in battle and this gypsy bride sported a big black eye.
The fairy feuding too seems underscored by violence.
The pairs of human lovers who adventure in the woods are feisty girls and boys. the verse sounds great in their forthright estuary and the workmen rehearsing their am-dram tragedy seem all set to be a hoot.
Titania is borne through the air by sinisterly balletic bare-chested male attendants and Oberon‘s anger echoed by thunder.
Though Puck is still a quicksilver figure, the fairies’ rhythmic verse is taken deliberatly and slowly, which interrupts the sense, perhaps that won’t seem so when the night is dry.
If the rest is as good as what I saw this is a fresh take on the Dream that is very welcome.
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