Edinburgh Fringe 2014
A high-energy, high quality performance of George Griggs’ well-crafted adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with music that’s accessible, easy on the ear and that gets the story across very effectively.
Infinity Repertory Theatre is a youth theatre group based in New York that clearly packs a punch. Their latest production, George Griggs’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream : The Rock Musical, played one of the off Broadway theatres last month as a prelude to its two week run over here in Edinburgh which, judging from the performance I saw, is delighting audiences.
Whilst remaining true to the original story, Griggs doesn’t let dialogue or iambic pentameter get in the way of a good song. This allows a suitably narcissistic Lysander and a nicely dreamy Hermia to start the show with a bang – lovers serenading each other from the top of the audience and stage. Making use of every nook and cranny of this generously spaced C venue, the cast slip effortlessly from one scene to the next, ensuring the show rolls along at a goodly pace yet never seeming to be particularly rushed. And with the odd bit of Shakespeare dialogue escaping Griggs’ red pen, these guys show that can act as well as sing and dance.
The variety of voices produced a pleasing mix of emotions – genuine sincerity and tenderness, satire, melodrama and, naturally, a bit of classic commedia dell’arte from those old favourites, The Mechanicals, complete with bright yellow T-shirts advertising their services. Indeed, such was the quality of the physically formidable Bottom’s voice, perhaps thought should be given to an offshoot group – Bottom and The Mechanicals. But maybe that’s next year’s project.
Other nice touches that caught the eye included Oberon as a ventriloquist’s dummy and the high-kicking, musical and very mercurial Puck. There was some clever physical theatre (particularly when it came to inserting eye-drops in appropriate places and the bust-up between Hermia and Helena) and the choreography was almost universally well executed by this energetic troupe.
But the stand out performer was a wonderfully love-crazed Helena, intent on tying down the philandering Demetrius and possessed of a fine, strong voice with a well-balanced range. Perhaps that’s why she also kept appearing to boost the numbers in the chorus of fairies, who themselves very effectively doubled up by filling a range of minor roles.
Some of Griggs’ tunes seemed to be rather samey in terms of beat, chords and instrumentation (which was basically acoustic guitar and keyboard, throughout) – there is surely more to a musical than well-written lyrics (which these are) and an occasional shift up and down a semi-tone. But I’m being picky here and credit to the cast for wringing just about everything they could from the score, even if it did mean one or two of them were struggling at the bottom of their singing range.
Foot-tappingly good, this is a show that comes highly recommended. I was so content whistling the tune to the finale, I hardly noticed the latest deluge descending from Edinburgh’s leaden skies as I headed off to my next engagement. Can’t say fairer than that.