A Midsummer Night’s Dream review at London Coliseum – ‘theatrical brilliance’
There’s an obvious irony in English National Opera opening A Midsummer Night’s Dream while snow covers the streets around St Martin’s Lane, but there’s plenty of genuine warmth generated by this superior performance.
A classic in its own right, Robert Carsen’s staging began life in 1991 at the Aix Festival and has been widely reprised ever since – including on no fewer than three previous occasions at the London Coliseum.
In its latest revival the show maintains its reputation as one of the director’s best creations: colourful, atmospheric and visually consistently inventive, it also allows the three worlds of Shakespeare’s play – each allotted its own musical idiom in Britten’s score – to contrast and collide to stylish and regularly thought-provoking effect.
The work’s basis in sex and sexuality as revealed in dreams comes over powerfully, but equally with a strong quotient of pure entertainment; while conductor Alexander Soddy – making his debut with the company and drawing the most refined of sounds from the excellent ENO orchestra – ensures that the magic is as much musical as theatrical.
One or two members of the cast don’t quite encompass the sheer vocal power to make their full mark in this vast theatre, though others do. Outstanding in quality are Soraya Mafi’s entrancing Tytania, Joshua Bloom’s grandiose Bottom, and the entire team of mechanicals, with Graeme Danby a stalwart Quince but the whole team maximising the comic potential of their scenes.
Christopher Ainslie brings an ethereal beauty of tone to Oberon, his otherworldliness perfectly complemented by the down-to-earthiness of the mature but hyper-athletic Puck of Miltos Yerolemou, who weighs every word in the balance. The Trinity Boys Choir embody a first-rate fairy troupe.
Throughout one notices the general improvement in the company’s verbal communication skills since it started to employ diction coaches – here the savvy Richard Suart.