'Midsummer Night's Dream' review or 'Cat fight in the courtyard'

A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, William Shakespeare
St Paul’s Church, Thursday 7th July 2011
Written for Time Out

Cowering beneath an awning, Oberon flinches as he watches the fruits of his labour turn rotten. Rather than uniting two lovers, The King of Fairies’ magic dust has created chaos. The resulting spat, as the pink-clad Hermia and Helena slap and slag each other off, is like a particularly exuberant outtake from ‘Gypsy Wedding.’

Spot the fairy: Titania merges with the shrubbery

If you like your ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ dark and nuanced then Iris Theatre’s promenade show, set in the grounds of St Paul’s Church, won’t be for you. But if you prefer your Shakespearean comedy broad, brash and with just the right sprinkling of adult cynicism, then you’ll relish the revels in Dan Winder’s finely pitched show.

Winder’s fairies look like super heroes on an off day. Peter Manchester is brilliant as the meddling Oberon, whose lightning streaked make up and puffball costume are as madcap as his misfiring magic tricks. His sidekick Puck, so often given a sinister twist in contemporary productions, is cartoonish. As Hywel Bayne sprints and spirals around, it’s like the Tazmanian devil has muscled his way into ‘Midsummer’.

Oberon: his magic powers might be rusty, but the man knows how to dress

Helen Coyston’s set makes clever use of a compact but variable courtyard. Coloured sheets create rough edged frameworks and kitchen utensils, hanging and clanging from the trees, complement the show’s slapdash silliness.

There is even some pathos to be found, as Bottom mourns the end of his revels. Mellalieu’s warm performance was a hit with the school kids but, as the summer light fades, even his enjoyably hammy delivery turns meaty. 

Bottom: a fine ass


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