Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“Gin and Tonic return with their rendition of this best-loved comedy in a production that…re-imagines the story of forbidden relationships and youthful anarchy in a vibrant, modern exploration of lust and love.”
This is a great production with strong performances and direction. The box stage makes for an intimate atmosphere and creates a strange feeling of being like a fly on the wall -witnessing the drama unfold. Elske Waite (director) has played to this very well and been careful to stage the play accordingly. The internal world of Shakespeare’s play has been constructed effectively and the performance has an otherness about it that is strangely intriguing. Care has been taken to distinguish between the two realities within this fictional world. Harriet Visick (lighting) and Rosie Whiting (costume) use lighting and costume changes to successfully evoke the twilight, surreal aspects of the fairy kingdom and actors switch seamlessly between the two parallel realities. The comedy and lightness of the performance is enjoyable and delivered with skill. The production has a very unpretentious feel about it that is refreshing to see, especially for a young company doing Shakespeare. What’s more, the actors are not self indulgent and don’t dwell on, or overdramatize the language of the play. This approach to the text feels extremely playful and it’s a pleasure to watch the cast enjoying themselves on stage, especially towards the end of the performance. However, at times, this is aspect of the production feels slightly overdone, or at least mistimed as lines are lost whilst actors exit or enter the stage. This may be a stylistic choice – and is reminiscent of the way the Wooster Group play with the cadence of Shakespearian language and deliberately avoid a ‘traditional’ approach to the way such texts are delivered. Nevertheless, if this decision is intentional it would be really interesting to see them clarify such ideas and explore them even further.
The group skillfully incorporate live music into the piece which adds to the richness of the performance. This is mainly used in the transitions between scenes and it would be great to see this aspect of the performance developed. Especially strong performances are given from Bridget Richards (Flute/Peaseblossom), Esmee Cook (Titania/Hippolyta), Joe Mcardle (Bottom) and Paddy Wilmott (Starveling/Mustardseed) – who introduces some brilliant physical comedy to the play. However, the company work hard to support each other which is perhaps the most noteworthy quality of the production.
Overall, I would like to have seen the actors take their time a bit more – not so much with the text as the movement within the piece which sometimes feels slightly rushed. For example, the scenes between Oberon (Jonathon Ip) and Puk (Brian Gilbert) are well delivered but both characters constantly move around the stage, perhaps Oberon could stay still and offer a counterpoint to Puk’s movement? Hermia (Emily Deans) and Lysander (Nitai Levi) also offer strong performances but again, some of their lines are lost as they move around the stage.
That said, this is a very strong production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and if you are interested in seeing a production of this play I am more than happy to recommend that you see this one. It is smart, full of energy and great to see a young company explore a play with such skill and good humour.