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Fringe Online 2020

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare’s Globe

Genre: Classical and Shakespeare, Comedy, Costume, Mainstream Theatre, Online Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Shakespeare’s Globe

Festival: ,

Low Down

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole and designed by Jonathan Fensom, Sian Williams slapstick choreography, Costumer Supervisor Lorraine Ebdon – Wardrobe by Megan Cassidy and Pam Humpage’s wigs.

Composer’s Claire Van Kempen Musical Director and Piano is George Bartle, Emily Baines, Arngeir Hauksson, Sarah Humphreys, Nicholas Perry,

Globes Associates – Text Giles Block, (Assistant Ng Choon Ping, Emily Jenkins) Movement Glynn MacDonald, Voice and Dialect Martin McKellan, Alison Bomber, Associate Director Martin Leonard, Costumer Supervisor Lorraine Ebdon. Props Co-ordinator Bella Lagnado

Executive Producers Dominic Dromgoole and Robert Marshall, Producers Lotte Buchan, Helen Hillman, Assocate Producer Jessica Lusk, Head of Casting Matilda James, Associate Karishma Balani.

Directed for the screen by Robin Lough. Camera Supervisor Chris Goor. Head of film distribution Chui-Yee Cheung. Till June 28th. 23.59.


For the last of its six lockdown free titles it’s hardly surprising that the middle summers spring be given to the Globe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

No not the Emma Rice 2016 production available to hire for a fee. That version seems to revisit Peter Brook’s 1970 one on acid. In the wake of the greatest production since then being re-screened at NTLiveAtHome – the Bridge 2019 directed by Nick Hytner – are we back nearer homespun if not rude?

No, revisiting this 2013 offering here directed by Dominic Dromgoole you see how Michelle Terry’s Titania and Hippolyta is parent and original of her counterpart that now-iconic Bridge version. Terry herself writes of Amazonian queens in the 2013 programme and the rationale powers through her double-role here, never letting up till she’s subdued her conqueror, John Light’s Theseus. His Oberon’s a more close-run thing.

Captive Hippolyta’s seething in captivity at the opening and her parting gesture, touching the forehead of Olivia Ross’s equally confined Hermia, is precisely echoed in the Bridge. Hippolyta in a Titania gesture imparts a moiety of her Amazonian power to Hermia, strengthening her resolve.

Only the Bridge in productions I’ve seen also follows through the thought: that Hippolyta doesn’t dwindle into a wife, but subverts and transfigures that role. The 2019 Globe production started with an Amazon box with Hippolyta in it, but this trope vanished. Here – in costumes flitting from late-Elizabethan to vernal looseness (the lovers too shed their finery) – we see how shedding stays for shifts transfigures you.

Hytner’s production is a miraculous thing, but Dromgoole’s has otherwise enormous strengths: few productions can match it for headlong clarity, a full text delivered with such frolic and few fronds. Terry’s ferociously quicksilver Hippolyta not only subverts Light’s stentorian Theseus but twits him in so many ways. There’s one-up rivalries during the forestalled hunt where Hippolyta gets one over him with her bow, anticipates or contradicts his lordly dispatch.

And dispatch Light does – his delivery is rapid, every way flued and sanded with entitlement and power. There’s immense authority – except when tripped up – a celerity that’s thrilling and owns the lines. His Oberon’s a darting shadowplay of this, twining up Globe pillars, swinging on ropes: though he can admit mistakes, when Puck defends himself over those Athenian garments. This Oberon’s less abusive, more nodding his part in mistakes.

Terry’s Titania is thrilling. Every thought zooms over her face as it does in her Hippolyta: sudden desire, humour (lots) the instant change from pleading with Bottom to ferocious command in ‘out of these woods do not desire to go’ the habit in short of command when entreaty won’t cut it. Her erotic sport with Bottom is all fire and air, her lifting up by fairies into that conic freeze we know the production by. glints with delight. The exchange with her and Light in this vein is revealing: you get an erotic charge between them, and also one that suggests their sexual intensity also finds an outlet in their spirits mating with their favoured ‘buskin’d’ Hippolyta (Oberon) and Titania’s enjoying Theseus.

Ross is an appealing Hermia, at her finest when her love’s stripped down to devastation, when she speaks her sorrow in utter amazement and knows not what to say. She’s also expressive, able to show in her face every response to her inconstant lover’s advances and retreats. Her delight in love is radiant.

Sarah MacRae’s Helena starts bereft and invests her maypole role (she’s somewhat taller) with power and grief. Her vocal command here makes for one of the finest Helena’s I’ve seen, her hopeless love, begging to be used as a spaniel is palpable, as is her clarity and fury. And terror at Hermia’s nails.

And one of the hallmarks of this production is to explore how the lovers are far more ambiguous. Helena for a moment delights in Lysander’s advances. Demetrius falters in his resolve as Helena comes on to him: you see here how very nearly he desires her, and his lines about her offering herself to one who loves her not – but might use her as a spaniel – could very quickly give way to something else.

Joshua Silver’s Demetrius isn’t quite the Proteus-dyed cad we see in some productions. Silver’s is a Demetrius wholly redeemable, faltering even in his repudiation of Helena – you can see he’s still sexually attracted to her, in part holds a spark despite himself. This makes his transformation all the more believable. His ‘I’d rather give his carcass to my hounds’ is delivered with a glint but it’s more petulant than psychotic.

Luke Thompson’s Lysander is more ambiguous. He’s an easy charmer, puffed with a little entitlement, his seduction-patter in his and Hermia’s first sleep-over pretty sure of his sexual power and right. He can be easily baffled and hurt, even in his full pursuit of Helena, who’s just for a second charmed, as we’ve seen. His puzzlement’s endearing. He wakes in a new understanding of his confusion.

Huss Garbiya’s nervy Starveling and Fairy, Tala Gouveia’s quietly sexy Cobweb in a spectral mob, Stephanie Racine’s equally lissom Peaseblossom form a double act of some peril where Bottom’s near. They flit like nervous interns. Tom Lawrence’s Snout and another Fairy coming into his own as a hapless all girt with basket-weave and loam and a collapse of slim party legs flailing. One of the highlights is Christopher Logan’s affecting Flute – always a part that can subvert the roaring of Bottom. This Logan does by relentless effective hamming, a florid delivery, over the top – often a quality given to Bottom, but here with Flute’s fluent understanding of hyperbole by then thirty years out of date it becomes something else – and Mustardseed, a little put upon by Bottom.

Molly Logan’s evanescent Moth, Fergal McElherron’s pedantic frustrated Quince is beautifully taken and immensely watchable as he tries desperately to keep his show on the boards. As first Fairy he flutters to some purpose over his mistress.

Edward Peel’s crusty Elizabethan-wigged Egeus with a nasty streak, is also a memorably towering slow-witted Snug who suddenly finds himself roaring despite himself, running amok,

The two most translated are those who seem to to transform at all. Their performances are magical. Pearce Quigley’s Bottom eschews any residual acting talent – he forgets his cues like ‘forgot’ and everywhere plays up his Lancastrian roots with a camp George Formby delivery that’s so laconic it hits bottom and bounces to sublimity. Quigley’s detailed dusting-off of hands every time he thinks he’s won a point or delivered his liens right is just one detail in his laid-back huffy sense of self-worth. Either kicking over his stool and walking off when he fails to get given all the other parts too, or sudden reconcilements to his lot make Quigley’s one of the most original, most bottomed of Bottoms of recent times. He simply refuses to follow obvious tradition. It’s a revelation.,

Matthew Tennyson’s lithe Puck – he’s naturally Philostrate too – is an energetic gamma-wave throughout. There’s a ready-to-be-hurt boyishness mixed with a delight when things actually turn out to confusion. He’s nimble in self-defence and his relationship with Oberon is respectful of his master’s powers up to the point he can push them. The near-kiss between them Puck bent over backwards, suspended) is a frisson of translation, their bare skins – there’s much of this in the slightly chilly air – part of the sexual confusion striping this production: not least in the sylvan make-up on Puck’s skin. There’s much mischief and a tiny bit of unchecked menace, but not too much darkness here. Tennyson’s slim rippling through the night and spinning confusion and clarity girdles this production in its two hours forty minutes.

Designed by Jonathan Fensom with a simple Elizabethan tapestry to front the backstage in vernal scenes, with fronds and other movables to represent forest brakes an briars, and that gorgeous costumery (Lorraine Ebdon and team) this is an uncluttered yet beautifully detailed production. The collapsible small stage the Mechanicals bring on is the height of proppery. Claire van Kempen’s music – often quoting Elizabethan dance – also scours the dark pastoral and strange slip-lights of the midsummer, and a memorable punchy score.

This might be the finest Globe A Midsummer Night’s Dream, certainly of the past decade. Its delights are dolphin-like, but translated. Worth purchasing and watching at least once a year.