Mardi Gras has come to Shakespeare’s Globe. New associate director Sean Holmes’ inventive and colourful production is a heady summer treat.
It has been a good year for fans of Shakespeare’s perennially popular play, with three major productions in London. Clearly we need a lift and Holmes is certainly out to provide it. The Hackney Colliery Band open with some top-notch brassing around, before Theseus (Peter Bourke) sets the tone in an outlandish Sergeant Pepper outfit, which transpires to be one of the more modest costumes.
One of several inspired choices by Holmes is the way the character of Puck is shared around the cast, adding momentum to his sometimes sluggish soliloquies and laughs where often there are none. He also gets an audience member to play Starveling, turning this normally insignificant mechanical into a star turn and adding a useful foil to the buffoonery of Bottom (a show-stealing Jocelyn Jee Esien).
The lovers are among the most charming you’ll see, with Ekow Quartey’s soul-singing Lysander a particular standout. There are comic set pieces aplenty, from frolics on a blow-up mattress to the entrance of Titania (Victoria Elliott) on a psychedelic golf cart.
The second half drags a little in comparison to the first, but the climactic performance of Pyramus and Thisbe is a joy, making excellent use of the aforementioned Starveling. And a closing rendition of the Housemartins’ Caravan of Love ensures it ends, as Titania instructs: “Hand in hand, with fairy grace.”