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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock
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Two-person company Box Tale Soup have made their name with crafty and compact adaptations of fiction, from Northanger Abbey to MR James’s Casting the Runes – the latter a big sell-out and critical hit at Brighton Fringe 2014. Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne make all the costumes, puppets and props themselves, and have a rare synergy as performers. This powerfully distinctive style and aesthetic makes their shows feel like collectors’ items.

Premiering at the Brighton Fringe under commission from the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, this family version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is their first take on an actual play. And while this doesn’t serve the pair’s skill in unearthing unexpected theatricality, it does provide ample exercise for their unique approach.

The design is gorgeous, all gold, green and shadows. Slipping in and out of their carousel of beautifully made costumes, Christophers and Byrne seem like graceful spirits. Sensuality is at once subtle and omnipresent. Oberon and Titania wear crowns of cardboard leaves that cradle their heads like lovers’ hands.

It makes thematic sense for a play filled with manipulation to be half-peopled by puppets, and the face-off between Hermia and Helena (“you counterfeit, you puppet!”) gains new comic traction. Sure, the majority of the plot will still go over the audiences’ heads. But where other adaptations for seven-plus audiences would patronise, Box Tale simply beguile.

Verdict
A beguiling first foray into Shakespeare from a duo whose beautifully crafted micro-shows are like collectors' items
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