A Midsummer Night's Mayhem

Shakespeare purists beware. This ‘Dream' is most definitely a ‘re-imagining'

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Bittersweet Lovesong Breaks Hearts at The Lyric

Lyric Hammersmith

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It's one of the Bards most popular comedies. On a midsummer night Hermia (Victoria Moseley) and her lover Lysander (John Lightbody) flee from Athens and Demetrius (Simon Manyonda) - the man Hermia's father favours as a son-in-law – follows. He's pursued by Helena, (Rebecca Scroggs) who loves him in spite of being spurned in favour of Hermia. On the same night Bottom (Mark Benton) and his friends leave Athens to find somewhere quiet to rehearse their play which is to be performed at the wedding feast of Duke Theseus. Drawn into the woods they enter a world of magic, mystery and wonder.

But not at the Lyric. The evening starts with Peter Quince, (Ed Gaughan) director of the Mechanicals performing a front-of-cloth stand up routine that has more to do with gags about the Royal Family and the Daily Mail than Shakespeare's classic. And from then on, the fourth wall firmly shattered, the Shakespeare traditions collapse. There is no interval. Modern dress prevails. Puck (Ferdy Roberts) is a tattooed theatre roadie. Oberon (Jonathan Broadbent) is a frustrated superhero dressed in a silver suit and a cape. The fairies become comedic sound effects and there are food fights, do-wop songs, rock ‘n' roll soliloquies, waving hands, and interactions with the audience.

A deceptively simple stark off-white set holds a few surprises though and there are some touches of class. Although much of the spirit of the play is frankly lost in heavy-handed slapstick and modern jokes and comments, the verse is mainly clear and concise and the performances of the lovers ably handled. A highlight is the sound design and the effects created by the on-stage musicians – possibly the only subtle aspect of this show. Filter and Sean Holmes have created a blunt, base instrument of a production that seems to have little to do with any of Shakespeare's intent or magic. But although this might not be theatre that is going to change anyone's life, the overriding theme of the night is laughter - and there's lots of it at the Lyric. And in that the Bard may approve.

Nic Hennegan

For tickets,  call the Box Office on 0871 22 117 29 or book online.
The play is being performed until March 17th.

February 18, 2012