‘I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was’ Act IV, Scene I, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
InterAct’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was anything but dreamy. The set was disappointing, the choreography was messy, and the performances were sensationalised.
A patchwork of astroturf that barely stretched to the left-hand corner of the stage failed to transport the audience from the depths of the Wickham theatre into the enchanted Athenian woods. A lonely string of fairy lights that hung from the ceiling didn’t quite capture the mystical charm of the mischievous forest. A bathtub, erupting with colourful fabrics that had been dramatically draped down from the balcony, was the centre-piece of this bizarre and under-whelming set. In all honesty, a naked stage would have appeared more professional and less confusing.
Chaos and disorder are constantly rife throughout the performance, especially in scenes containing our four lovers (Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius). Romy Levinsohn played Helena as a shrill and melodramatic brat. In her reckless attempt to win laughs, she tripped over her lines and mumbled through her phrases. Helena’s infatuation for Demetrius lacked subtlety. The directors seemed reluctant to rely on Shakespeare’s sharply crafted phrases, instead instructing Levinsohn to throw herself onto Demetrius in vulgar, confused and scruffy movements. Ellie Fulford’s portrayal of Demetrius was equally melodramatic. In fits of passion she threw herself to her knees so frequently it bordered on boring. It’ll be a miracle if she won’t need to see an orthopaedic surgeon after three days of equally dramatic performances.
For me, tying Fulford’s hair into a tight bun did little transform her into the domineering Demetrius. The excessive displays of misogyny and sexism did little to convince me of Fulford’s masculinity. Similarly, Bottom’s conceited arrogance was lost on Treveil’s jovial and softer portrayal of the character. In my opinion, the decision to have women play men was a little confusing and left something to be desired from characters where masculinity is essential.
In an overwhelmingly mediocre production, there were a few magical moments. A special mention must go to Flute (Alicia Wakeling), Snout (Riddhi Bhatt), Snug (Adelaide Hitchinson) and Starvelling (Lily Burge). Shattering the fourth wall, the actresses punctuated silences with a series of ad-libbed witty retorts and snarky comments. Side glances and sharp remarks from all four performers left the audience in stiches. Other commendable performances included Titania (Mathilde Hirth) and Puck (Wyn Turner). Hirth played Titania with a maturity and poise that allowed her to dominate the stage, whilst Turner perfectly embodied Puck’s chutzpah, winning the audience with cheeky winks, and agile leaps across the stage. The music was pitch perfect and the makeup gloriously glittery. I was especially impressed by the flowery tattoos that snaked round the arms of Oberon and Titania. It is just a shame that the level of impressive detail applied to the makeup wasn’t applied to the whole production.
The play was fun. At times laughter ricocheted through the theatre and, although messy and uncoordinated, the show was amusing. Unfortunately, when tackling such a well-known play with a strong legacy of formidable productions, there is little room to impress a critic well-versed in Shakespeare. Whilst it was clear that the cast worked hard, unfortunately this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was overwhelmingly mediocre.