Review: Midsummer, Mercury Theatre

The brilliant Midsummer receives a new lease of life in this Mercury Theatre and Barn Theatre co-production

“Change is possible”

Even though it has that hated ‘play with songs’ sobriquet, I absolutely adored David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s Midsummer back in the day (catching it twice as a baby blogger some 14 years ago, eek!). It now re-emerges in a new form in a debut co-production between Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and Cirencester’s Barn Theatre, directed by Ryan McBryde with an absolutely gorgeously well-cast quartet of performers.

The show captures the heady rush of a pair of 30-somethings swept up in the heady rush of a lost weekend in Edinburgh, where mayhem threatens to turn to something magical in the midsummer haze. Bob’s a would-be petty criminal, Helena’s a high-flying lawyer, they’re both on the run from something and knocking the drinks back in a pub. As they fumble their way to a one-night-stand, fate soon determines that there’s something more in store for them.

Ross Carswell and Karen Young are huge amounts of fun as Bob and Helena, unrepentant in their bad decision-making but finding sweetness in the mutual discovery of a kindred soul who might lift the gloom, even if only for a weekend. McBryde’s innovation though is to add in two more players – Will Arundell and Laura Andresen Guimarães – who act as narrators, thus sharing the storytelling load and adding to the musicality as it expands the potential of McIntyre’s tuneful songs.

You’d never know the difference if you hadn’t seen it before and what might be lost in terms of the intimacy of keeping it a two-hander feel more than made up for in the expansiveness of this production which is hitting bigger stages. None of the show’s considerable charm has been lost, its ribald sense of humour still intact (Slough and Belgium still get it in the neck, Bob’s talking cock remains a high point) and I fell in love with it all over again.

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