Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wilton’s Music Hall

Flabbergast Theatre’s imaginative A Midsummer Night’s Dream has its moments at Wilton’s Music Hall

“I am as ugly as a bear”

Opening to the strains of a haunting Ukrainian folk song, Flabbergast Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream fills Wilton’s Music Hall with a multitude of ideas of how to reinvigorate Shakespeare, no surprise to anyone to caught their take on Macbeth last year. Here, their conceit is a band of 8 travelling players and their capacious wagon stopping by to deliver a broad and boisterous multi-roling version of this tale of lovers, fairies, wannabe actors and kangaroo shoes.

Aspects of this approach work well. The physical theatre of the lovers’ quarrel is brilliantly conceived – Vyte Garriga’s Helena and Paulina Krzeczkowska’s Hermia squabbling in front with Elliot Pritchard’s Lysander and Nadav Burstein’s Demetrius wrestling in slow motion in back is perfectly done. And explicitly doubling the lovers with Titania’s fairies amps up the air of enchantment, particularly with their pastoral nightmare design (by director Henry Maynard) and eerie sounds.

Others are less effective. Krystian Godlewski’s buffoonishly entertaining take on Oberon undoubtedly sucks the air from all around him, causing a fatal imbalance with Reanne Black’s underpowered Titania – this pair never feel like a king and queen of anything. Giving Egeus (Hermia’s father) main character energy similarly contorts the energy of his scenes. More problematic still is making all the rude mechanicals so very declamatory behind their muffling masks.

It offers a clear, though scarcely needed, delineation between roles for the company but the over-emphatic acting style saps the pace of their scenes, crucially so as they close out the play with a performance of Pyramus and Thisbe that ends up painfully slow. Again, it’s not like there’s no bright spots – Burstein’s Francis Flute brings powerfully real emotion to Thisbe – it’s just such a definitive choice that doesn’t pay off in the way that, say, the slapstick of the lovers really does. A mixed bag.

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