Gaming Editor Kitty Grant reviews A Midsummer Night’s Dream, praising the performances of the cast in this 1980s-inspired production

Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences student and Social and Social Media Secretary
Images by Pamela Raith

On the train to Stratford-upon-Avon to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I met an old lady who told me she spent years working in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) costume department. She worked on a production of Romeo and Juliette that included a motorbike, which received lots of complaints because it was considered too modern and not faithful enough to Shakespeare’s original work. Those critics would have hated this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to its credit.

[It is] genuinely tears-in-your-eyes funny

The costumes were clearly inspired by the 1980s, complete with yuppies, punks, mods and goths, and though the staging was minimal, it did include projections of images that I can only assume were from the ’80s (I was born in 2000, sorry). A small part of me was initially disappointed that, despite the cottagecore-style accessories in the gift shop, this production didn’t go for the woodland atmosphere I usually associate with A Midsummer Night’s Dream; however, I quickly warmed up to the theming this version chose. I particularly like the open, minimalist stage design – it reminds me of the videos of RSC productions I watched throughout my GCSEs and A-Levels.

I’ve read a few of Shakespeare’s comedies before but this was my first time seeing one live, and I’m surprised to say I found it really funny – not just funny for Shakespeare, but genuinely tears-in-your-eyes funny. At school, we learnt that Shakepseare’s comedies are rude and bawdy, but I’ve never seen an adaptation that shows this side of Shakespeare as well as this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream does. There’s something quite nice about laughing at the exact same vagina joke that people were laughing at 400 years ago, so I appreciate that this production doesn’t shy away from it. The comedic highlight of the show is the play-within-a-play, and it is charming to see the rest of the cast struggle to keep a straight face while the mechanicals bumble around the stage.

Mathew Baynton as Bottom […] does not disappoint

The highlight of this production is the cast. Like everyone aged 18-30 watching this version, I was really excited to see the Horrible Histories and Ghosts’ star Mathew Baynton as Bottom, and he does not disappoint. I’m happy to say that he is just as funny on stage as he is on TV. Baynton lights up the stage every time he appears, yet it never feels like he is stealing focus from the other actors. Baynton’s isn’t the only great performance: the whole cast are amazing, but my favourites are Boadicea Ricketts as Helena and Ryan Hutton as Lysander, whose performances are both hilarious.

This is the RSC’s first production to use creative audio description

This is the RSC’s first production to use creative audio description, where audio description is part of the creative process worked on by the whole team, rather than the audio describer working alone. I didn’t get a chance to try out the audio description headsets, but it’s really cool to see accessibility tools becoming part of the creative process instead of being an afterthought.

Overall, this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is creative, genuinely funny, and full of incredibly talented people both on stage and off. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes Shakespeare.

Rating: 5/5

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until Saturday 30th March.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Redbrick Culture here!

Theatre Review: 2:22 A Ghost Story

Book Review: Deadly Animals by Marie Tierney

Book Review: Makeover by Laurie Bolger