Summer and A Midsummer Night's Dream seem synonymous. Whilst undoubtably a safe choice, it's a play that seems beautifully suited to the Open-Air theatre and this year's production is no exception. One of its chief delights is the way it makes maximum use of the space's intimacy, Paul Farnsworth's inventive set recreating the fairy kingdom with fluid foliage that enhances the sense of prevailing enchantment. When Puck suddenly becomes aware of impending night as the play draws to a close, the light really is beginning to fail, a perfect instance of dramatic serendipity.
Michael Pennington's staging places Dream firmly in the present with the selective use of modern gadgets and contemporary dress for the Athenian citizens. A mobile phone registers no network coverage when the dismayed Bottom tries to contact his fellow artisans and it's a device that works well, modernity merely emphasising the comedic impact of the moment with dramatic panache.
Shakespeare's sublime comedy is invariably a treat and whilst the performances vary from the acceptable to the inspired, Peter Forbes' beleagured Bottom is an absolute delight, complemented by memorable turns from Jamie Beamish's Flute, and Gerard Carey's endearing Snug as bemused artisans enacting the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. The quartet of lovers are amusing enough but the real magic of the evening lies in its overall effect as dream and reality become wonderfully interwoven, something Pennington deftly emphasises with the lightest of touches.
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What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Tries to be fresh and different." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Michael Pennington succeeds in this modern-dress production...he puts great emphasis on clarity of speech and on the metaphysical journey all the characters undergo." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "Michael Pennington’s production.....warm moments giving way to damp patches." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "The fairies, looking like a cross between Arthur Rackham illustrations and Vivienne Westwood fashion victims, are the major disappointment." He goes on to say, "The fairies notwithstanding, it's a richly enjoyable evening." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "There are a number of enjoyable things in this Midsummer Night's Dream, but they take a back seat to the production's lack of movement, music and mystery."
External links to full reviews from newspapers...