Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Get out of bed with a grin and enjoy a spot of Shakespeare for breakfast – coffee and croissants supplied! This very silly comedy re-write of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ offers a jolly romp through one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, and is an ideal family show.
‘Shakespeare for Breakfast’ is something of an institution at the Fringe – it’s been getting festival goers out of bed before for 18 years now, so they’re obviously doing something right. Perhaps it’s the combination of iambic pentameter and a free croissant, or maybe just that they are known for consistently turning out reliably funny takes on Shakes that suit all ages. If you are searching for a show to kick off a family festival trip with, look no further: ‘Shakespeare for Breakfast’ rollicks through the best bits of the bard, and is rude enough for parents to enjoy, while being clean enough for the kids.
This year ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ becomes ‘A Midsummer Night’s Scream’ – presumably, that’s screamingly funny (the horror element is limited to an utterly irrelevant though very enthusiastic dance routine). Of course, plenty of liberties have been taken with the script – the approach is to mingle bona fide Shakespeare lines with re-writes, inventions and digressions, plus pots of pop culture references, a sprinkling of innuendo and a dollop of audience participation. Sit in the front row at your peril: you may become one of the main characters.
The cast of five flit between roles, and are unstintingly bouncy and full of beans (coffee beans, presumably, and lots of them). The familiar cast of characters are given contemporary twists: Lysander is Birkenstock and bead wearing, dim but devoted boyfriend to the high maintenance Hermia – who yucksomly pet-names him Ly-ly and Lychee – while Demetrius works excellently as a smarmy investment banker, cruelly rejecting Helena, an irritating pink-clad ditz who reeeeally goes for the whole ‘let me be your spaniel’ thing. The four lovers are the highlights of the show – Puck, our narrational guide and chief audience inter-actor, is gratingly ‘quirky’, and while the playing of Titania as ‘Letitia Dean – Fairy Queen’ proves popular with the audience it’s a bit of a one-gag choice.
The material is utterly silly, frothy and insubstantial as a cappuccino. But the cast work exceptionally well together, seem to be having a grand old time and successfully ensure the audience does too. It’s like a pop-Shakespeare panto, and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying that they pull it off perfectly – which at 10 in the morning, every day for a month, is fairly heroic feat.