A Midsummer Night’s Dream review at Watermill Theatre, Newbury – ‘a playful production’
Fizzing with humour, charm, and just a touch of chaos, Paul Hart’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a particularly light and delightful fairy tale. Setting a spritely pace, Hart gives his cast room to gambol and grandstand within the text’s frothy, familiar poetry, scrambling up scaffolds and charging down the aisles with abandon. Puck rides piggyback on Oberon’s shoulders. Fairies flit around in the shadows with guitars and trumpets, dancing and playing in the dark.
Among this strong ensemble, Tyrone Huntley’s Lysander offers just the right mix of warmth and insouciance, along with a superb singing voice. Opposite him, D/deaf performer Sophie Stone’s Hermia expresses volumes with a quirked eyebrow or disparaging smirk. In private moments together, the pair slip into sign language, generating a tremendous intimacy in their eloquent silence.
A last-minute addition to the cast – standing in for Watermill ensemble regular Emma McDonald – Rebecca Lee makes a regal Titania, her crisp, measured delivery a stabilising presence amongst the silliness. Victoria Blunt, meanwhile, gives a show-stealing, scenery-chewing turn as Bottom, balancing daft comic chops with swaggering charisma, careening between egotism and idiocy.
Showcasing simple but appealing stage magic, a live soundtrack of soul standards, and a threadbare, Dickensian-chic aesthetic courtesy of designer Katie Lias, the production is packed with strong but ultimately unrelated ideas, an upended toy box of a show. Though they never quite cohere, each element is pulled off with precision, adding piecemeal to an overall sense of sheer fun that’s both rare and refreshing.