With food thrown, beer sprayed and a healthy dose of irreverence, Filter Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is back at the Lyric Hammersmith, co-directed by Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll. You’d hope Shakespeare wouldn’t be spinning in his grave so much as tapping his foot to the band.
The original 2012 production began life at Latitude Festival as another step in Holmes’ work with Filter. Both Filter and the Lyric place great importance in cultivating long-term relationships with their artists. So, following his role in the Lyric’s Secret Theatre ensemble and Bugsy Malone, it feels right to see Hammed Animashaun enter here as Demetrius.
While an oily John Lightbody initially steals the show as a lascivious lizard of a Lysander, Animashaun grabs a mic and nabs big laughs with his full-blooded, soul-style crooning in the forest. And he’s not the only newcomer: both Clare Dunne (Helena) and Cat Simmons (Hippolyta and Titania) keep time with the confident, comic rhythm of the returning ensemble.
Watching this revival in the light of Secret Theatre is fascinating. Now, it feels like a precursor to that work. Behind the knowing metatheatrics, electronica and Jonathan Broadbent’s Lycra-clad Oberon, is the same drive to cut through the dulling familiarity of some plays – to make us hear old words anew.
That’s what prevents this raucously enjoyable show from becoming an up-itself, one-trick pony, just when the endless crashing through walls could grate. It might leave the stage in a state, but, crucially, it doesn’t trample on Shakespeare. It stays true to the spirit of the play.