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A Midsummer Night’s Dream review at Lyric Hammersmith London

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Puck’s beautiful speech at the end of the play, beginning “If we shadows have offended”, comes as something of a surprise. Not because it is delivered by a burly techy – we’ve become used to Ferdy Roberts’s unusual Robin Goodfellow – but, following the mayhem, the food fights, rock choruses, paint squirting and guffaws, it could be inviting agreement. Perhaps a few joyless purists will take exception to Filter’s latest, but they will be missing the point.

Shakespeare’s play is about the confusion of love, about being at the mercy of the whims of others. Here the pleasure is doubled as the actors playing the young lovers, Titania, the Mechanicals and Bottom appear not to know what is coming any more than their characters. In fact, every frantic movement is timed to the second and over it all presides hilarious Irish stand-up-cum-Peter Quince, Ed Gaughan, who can make the term “meta-fiction” funny.

Filter’s special strength is in sound. The set is a deceptively boring paper box and the costumes mostly come-as-you-are (although Jonathan Broadbent makes a striking, nerdy super hero Oberon in blue Lycra, equipped with specs and an asthma inhaler). The music and sound effects are comic and magical. The kernel of the play is intact and every time the actors speak Shakespeare’s words the audience is spellbound.

In Gary Oldman’s unavoidable absence (we are told), Mark Benton is brought up from the stalls, along with his Sainsbury bags. He has exactly the right bullishness and comic timing for Bottom and even knows some of his lines, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns up on subsequent nights. He did jolly well anyway.

Production Information

Lyric Hammersmith, London, February 11-March 17, then touring until August 4

Author
William Shakespeare
Director
Sean Holmes
Producers
Lyric Hammersmith, Filter Theatre
Cast
Jonathan Broadbent, Ed Gaughan, John Lightbody, Simon Manyonda, Poppy Miller, Victoria Moseley, Ferdy Roberts, Rebecca Scroggs, Chris Branch, Alan Pagan, Mark Benton
Running time
1hr 45mins

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