Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scottish Opera, King’s Theatre

It requires a certain level of egotism to think you can meddle and monkey with Shakespeare’s words, and add a musical score. Benjamin Britten obviously thought he had the talent to do so.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scottish Opera

King’s Theatre

* * *

Despite being one of the greatest British composers of all time, some might feel this does little to enhance the original.

For that reason, the surtitles are welcome – and at times necessary – given that Britten’s work is often unappreciated by the “untrained ear”.

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In this work, the score is constructed in such a way as to express three different personalities of the diverse sets of characters: the mortals, the rustics and the fairies.

However, sections of music in which the harp, for example, is in direct conflict with the trombone – along with snippets of sound which today sound suspiciously like a mobile phone going off – are unlikely to appeal to today’s audiences.

That said, this was a demanding challenge for the cast, both musically and physically.

The principal performers were more than up to the job; they are highly remarkable performers in terms of vocal delivery, though the acting abilities of some could be improved upon.

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However, in terms of sheer performance and stage presence, Bottom (Andrew McTaggeart) held the full attention of the audience.

Meanwhile, Puck (Jami Reid-Quarrell) gave a stunning performance.

His physical acrobatics on rope and pole, while delivering the personality of a mischievous sprite who resembled an impish Johnny Rotten, were breathtaking.

But perhaps the real star – certainly a contender for the title – is the set.

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Simple boxes with blue, neon strip lighting created the location, while also producing exactly the right dreamlike quality for the performers.

Add to this the imaginative use of projection and exquisite imagery, and the audience at least had something to stop them from joining the onstage mortals in a light snooze.

Despite some wonderful performances and set design, this is a production that will only appeal to a limited few – those who appreciate a once-modern musical style constructed from jarring dissonance.

• Run ends today