There’s magic to be found deep in the bowels of Alexandra Palace. At least, that’s what RIFT’s production would like you to think. Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras’ immersive staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a stylish, if ultimately flat, reimagining of Shakespeare’s rambunctious comedy.
Set before the inaugural BBC broadcast from Alexandra Palace, audience members are ushered through dank corridors to watch a final rehearsal – inevitably, however, the action begins to bleed out of Katharine Heath’s moody and atmospheric design. Lights begin to flicker, bodies start to twist and writhe, and walls are broken down as we enter the fairy kingdom.
It’s an intriguing premise, but it’s wonkily carried off, with audience members traipsing from room to room dragging down an already hefty run time.
There’s an ironic lack of imagination to this Dream – Mortimer and Nawras’ direction of the text feels fairly by-the-numbers, their fairies turning in swooping, swooning vocals and physicality, their mortals stomping about.
The members of the company all give solid performances that occasionally err towards awkwardness when paired with Emma Farnell-Watson’s sinewy choreography. Henry Maynard’s swaggering Bottom is the clear standout, but there remains a frustrating shallowness to Mortimer and Nawras’ vision.
There are flashes of intrigue – there’s a queasily absorbing undercurrent of darkness in Oberon’s absolute dominance over Puck, in watching the fairy king wrench his lackey back and forth with a flick of the hand, and uncomfortable questions of consent are raised, but they are never fully explored.