Sophie Uyttenhove reviews UoB's Watch This's production of this original and thought-provoking play by Rebecca ChapmanWritten by Redbrick on 22nd March 2017
A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Blue Orange Theatre
The Blue Orange Theatre, located in the Jewellery Quarter, provides a simple but atmospheric backdrop to this energetic and often hilarious version of Shakespeare’s comedy
The Blue Orange Theatre, located in the Jewellery Quarter, provides a simple but atmospheric backdrop to this energetic and often hilarious version of Shakespeare’s comedy. Just six actors take on all the parts, facilitated by quick but effective changes in costume and accent; Emily Summers has the most varied task, playing the roles of Hippolyta, Helena, Snug and Titania. The limitations of this approach only occasionally become apparent, when recorded voices are unavoidably used, most noticeably for the interjections of the audience when Bottom and co. perform Pyramus and Thisbe.
Director Oliver Hume’s concept for the show is ‘someone dreaming to the sound of a radio’, which allows for a range of contemporary elements to be included, though some of these intrude a little. The use of the Strictly Come Dancing theme music only detracted from the atmosphere, and the playing of rock music during some of the head-banging Puck’s scenes was a distraction from the rhythm of the dialogue. Having the Mechanicals enter to the sound of the Wombles theme tune, however, seemed highly appropriate. The most striking instance of near-contemporary influence was Stuart Horobin’s Oberon, a sneering, cockney-accented, leather jacket-clad rocker. This interpretation gave a hard edge to the character which sat well with his domineering attitude and sadistic scheming.
The play’s greatest strength, however, lies in its successful combination of Shakespeare’s dialogue with the cast’s brilliant physical comedy. The scenes with the lovers in the wood were inspired and genuinely delighted the audience, as did Stacey Evelyn Powell’s hilarious performance as Bottom. If the show’s small scale made this a less spectacular Dream than others, the energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness of the cast and director more than made up for it.
By Matt Kears
A Midsummer Night's Dream runs at the Blue Orange Theatre until Saturday the 6th of October. Tickets are available here.