SHAKESPEARE can sometimes seem like a chore, especially for younger family members, but Matthew Lenton’s snow-covered production for the Lyceum brings out the magic at the heart of this classic play.
When the king and queen of the fairies fall out, the natural order of the world is turned upside down. The sun doesn’t rise, the sea spits out “contagious fogs”, people turn into animals, and star-crossed lovers fall in love with the wrong people in the wrong order.
Lenton has taken this premise and run with it. Instead of the dappled-forest-and-flower-garlands look usually associated with the play, the dream takes place in a winter forest, complete with snowsuits for the lovers, chilly echo sound effects for the fairies and a brilliantly huge amount of snow.
Dressed as a cross between a fawn and an aviator, Cath Whitefield gives a highly enjoyable and accessible performance as Puck, chief mischief-maker of the fairies. Jordan Young is an effortlessly funny Bottom, while Grant O’Rourke works hard for his laughs as Thisbe – and certainly gets them.
Despite an attitude-filled performance from Roisin Gallagher as Helena, the four lovers disappoint. Their story feels like a subplot in a play about fairies and amateur dramatic productions rather than the main meat of the production.
Lenton has added a few funny lines and lots of physical humour to the play. These are largely successful in making the story clearer and getting laughs, but also risk distracting from the text. In one notable instance, an entire scene’s worth of dialogue was largely ignored by the audience in favour of a snowball fight between two half-naked men going on upstage.
Some of Lenton’s larger additions don’t quite make sense, especially the attempt to add a backstory for Bottom and make a play which is already a dream within a dream inside another dream altogether. But all of these bum notes are easy to ignore. This is – despite it’s winter-costumed twist – a simple, solid Shakespeare production that everyone can enjoy.
Run ends November 17
Rating: * * *