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A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Freddie Fox – review at Southwark Playhouse

A scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Tomas Turpie Freddie Fox and company in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Harry Grindrod

It’s been done before, and often. A company of actors gallop through a text for which they seem to be woefully ill-equipped, doubling and trebling where necessary, growing increasingly red-faced in their efforts. In this case, a company of seven attempts to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream in under two hours. It’s an uncompromising approach in a number of ways: staged in traverse, the house lights remain up until very near the end, there are no sound cues, and they’ve hacked chunks out of the text.

The cast have some (very gentle) fun at the expense of actors and their egos and the rivalries of the rehearsal room. Freddie Fox gamely plays up to this, doubling as Demetrius and Bottom, happily making an ass of himself in more ways than one. His transmogrification into a donkey sees him contorting and spraying the floor with spittle, part Eeyore, part Bradley-Cooper-as-Joseph-Merrick.

Simon Evans’ production is fun enough but where it really needs to crank up the pace, it starts to come apart a bit. The Mechanicals’ play-within-a-play is baggier than it should be, with too much time wasted running on and offstage. There is some amusing audience interaction, and the whole thing feels like a hymn to the power of the imagination. But this kind of exercise needs charm and immaculate timing to carry it along, and they don’t quite have enough of either.

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Verdict
Entertaining if slightly self-satisfied dash through Shakespeare’s comedy
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