A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Shakespeare’s Globe SE 1

PINK SATIN AND A  FAIRY PINATA FOR A PIMMS-Y NIGHT OUT

        Face it, this play’s a rom-com,  a lark,  a happy pretty way to blame the fickleness of young love on petulant fairies.  It can be treated more solemnly, playing up the harshness of the Athenian court;  or  Helena, thinking herself mocked,  can rise to something near tragedy;   Oberon can be made maliciously, controllingly and humiliatingly  sexist or – in the glorious Bridge production – cheekily flipped to become the victim of the trick himself.  

     But no need for any of that:  perfectly valid to capitalize on the Globe’s natural festival jollity,  festoon the forest with hippie-morris-clown trees of rags in every colour plus neon,  and accompany it with a riotous brass ensemble,  taking care to get them rousing up the audience beforehand with cries of “We’re back!”  and enforced synchro-clapping rhythm exercises.  Joyful it was, indeed,  so that by the time the beginners are wheeled on in a big delivery box (very topical) we’re all up for a couple of hours of hard-sitting fun (no cushions owing to Covid, take your own).

       The costumes from this 2019 production return exuberant (though the young lovers are in monochrome, with weird lopsided semi-ruffs, Demetrius looking as if recently assaulted by a swan).  Mostly it’s all delightfully over the top and down the other side, sartorially speaking:  a pink-satin Duke, Peter Quince in sparkly high boots,  Bottom in shiny leopardprint leggings even before she is transformed into a giant pinata donkey  (Sophie Russell is terrific,  fearlessly authoritative).    The rude-mechanicals are great fun altogether, not least in casting an audience member into their number and forcing him onto a gold exercise-bike.  Puck is multiple, clearly being a team of intern-pucks dashing around in T-shirts.   Titania, her flowery bed a giant wheelie-bin,  is crinolined and feathered;   Oberon in his greenish hair and gold aureole surprisingly stately.  Those two costumes made me realize that what I really want in life is this play done – as a musical – with Dolly Parton and Elton John as the fairy monarchs. 

         But for now,  Sean Holmes’  cheerful romp will do to kick off a season which, if theatres know what they’re doing,  will major on merriment not ‘issues’.   Peter Bourke’s Oberon is the one who sticks in my mind: he catches some real Shakespearian nobility  in his reproof of Puck’s mistake and in his final reconciliation.    I’m all for exuberant youth,  but sometimes an old-stager beautifully spoken and poised, is a treat.  Looking him up , I learn that fifty years ago Bourke was Puck himself at drama school.  He has a memoir about to be published. Which I am searching out now.      

box office  www.shakespearesglobe.com  to  30 October   

    in rep with As You Like it – same company

 There are also some midnight matinees starting at 1159pm… for you party people…

rating four  midsummery mice    

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