Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Union Theatre

Til Tomorrow Theatre Company’s double-cast production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Union Theatre is energetic and occasionally over-enthusiastic

“What hast thou done?”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays, the first I ever read and the one I’m most likely to book in for even when I’m a little bored of the Bard. And Til Tomorrow Theatre Company’s – a multinational collective of recent Fontainebleau School of Acting graduates – promised treatment of the show in an 1980s nightclub piqued my interest enough to get me along to their continuing UK tour. 

And it is a production full of enthusiasm and energy, and occasional overexuberance. The 80s club setting is a puzzler from the start (the first song they dance to – Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’…) and who knows what to think at the point where people are slumbering left right and centre… There’s more success considering the different groupings of the play as subculture sets – Lysander as a lesbian, Theseus and Hippolyta as duelling sides of the personality of a playful club owner (I think). 

But further upping the ante, Nia Lynn’s production is also double-cast so different nights see complete shifts with the company (which, amusingly, return Lysander to a male actor and split Theseus and Hippolyta between two actors). Which makes it even harder to pass comment – as they ask as the end ‘are you sure you’re awake?’! – though it does feel a shame that what felt like enlivening tectonic changes to the play aren’t actually baked in.

Slight issues with the sound balance meant that more than one cast member was battling too often against too-loud underscoring and the fast pace of this trimmed-down version did leave me wanting just a little more care taken to express the poetry in so many of these lines. Fabian Bevan’s Oberon making room for an elegiac ‘I know a bank…’ a rare moment that shone through; Alice Elliott’s Helena a standout in considered characterisation.

But if not everything worked for me, there are also some fine moments. The embodiment of the popcorn gif, Fleetwood Mac being the sound of magic, the fishing rod…the sense of adventurousness throughout is certainly something to be admired and something that fills me with more inspiration than any number of productions at more austere addresses. (Also, so great to be back at the ever-friendly Union Theatre again.)

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is booking at the Union Theatre until 30th July and then tours to Theatre Royal Brighton – August 16th; Wilderness Wood, East Sussex – August 29th: Matinee Evening; The Willow Globe, Wales – September 3rd Matinee Evening; and Bryan’s Ground, Presteigne – September 4th

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