10-14 September 2014
By William Shakespeare
Director: Dominic Dromgoole
Reviewed by Hilary Whates
Sooo. I’ve read this play and seen it once or twice over the years. Quite recently as an amazing ballet production where actually absolutely none of the words were spoken.
This version will be touring the world apparently. So the stage design is very traditional as you would expect and is in fact a replica of sorts of the Globe Theatre. Actually most of the time 50% of it is hidden behind a number of material screens depicting trees.
Those unfamiliar with the play may find this interpretation engaging but a little challenging. The character Bottom is played by an actor (Trevor Fox) with an outstanding Geordie accent for example. He, and the other members of his erstwhile group of rugged workers produced a performance on a collapsing mini stage in the second act which was hilarious. For me the best part of the evening.
But I digress. Mr T and I found our seats a little earlier than usual. However there was already a musical trio playing very traditional instruments on stage to greet us all. They stood before a set which turned out to be the one used throughout the entire performance. Being used to going to plays where every scene demands a change of background, foreground, furniture (as well as people), it was surprising to find that this setting remained a constant throughout the performance. I quite often find constant scene changes distracting so this was an interesting alternative approach.
In case you aren’t familiar with the play perhaps I should just warn you that given the time when it was written we are presented with a number of love matches/hatreds and magical situations which are portrayed to emphasise the underlying passion of love and desire fermenting between all the various couples involved. I suspect the original portrayal may have been more innocently put, but in fact this version (sometimes a little raw) has made me reconsider. Perhaps the Elizabethans were not as prim as I have thought they would be.
Oberon – magnificently portrayed by Adam Gillett pronounces what should happen to the stricken lovers who are running around in the wood with an ever decreasing number of garments. He is totally upstaged, as is everyone else (until the final scene that is), by Molly Logan who plays Puck. What a fantastic performance! Clearly a massive talent.
This is a complex play. The portrayal on this occasion seemed to be traditional but in fact often strayed which gave it a certain originality. Having a donkey with a Geordie accent. Creating a forest out of some curtains with trees drawn on and a few branches waved about now and then was a surprise. It all worked very well.
I did wonder why there were so many lights left on in the theatre – and still do to be honest. I think it detracted from focusing on the stage. An additional problem was actually being able to hear what was being said. We were midway in the stalls. My hearing is fine and I had to listen intently to ensure I captured all that was being said. Mr T denies any difficulties hearing but clearly has problems as whenever I ask him to wash up he claims I didn’t say a word. He really struggled to hear and given the complexity of the play I think delivering the sound loud enough is really important.
A complex evening’s entertainment with perhaps some elements not quite working whilst others were outstanding. Really loved the live music performed mostly in the gallery at various points throughout the play.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Exchange Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UG