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Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by The King’s Shakespeare Company

Image By Elizabeth Ho

Staff writer Hannah Durkin Review’s The Kings Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Feeling mildly frazzled and irked by the swarm of on-peak, rush-hour bodies buzzing round London Bridge station, I rushed into the Greenwood Theatre off St Thomas Street. I was dying to be whisked away into a fantastical world far away from that of the thundering Jubilee line and its commuters.

As the lights dimmed in The Greenwood Theatre, we were collectively fastened into a two-hour flight far from reality – into a world of fairies, fancies, and Shakespearian shenanigans.

The Shakespearian classic A Midsummers Night’s Dream will no doubt ring bells for many of us. Putting on such a classic would not only require a great troop of actors, but an imaginative behind the scenes crew to put a new twist on a time-honoured favourite.

The performance was well attended for the opening night, with the large Greenwood Theatre filled, it is clear that the Kings Shakespeare Company has a reputation as an enjoyable night of Elizabethan theatre.

With a large stage to command, Director Elektra Birchall and Assistant Director Parthiv Gargo used the space dynamically. The props and forestry hangings hoisted above the stage lolled like willow leaves into the scene, effectively immersing the audience the performance. The woodland was alive and moving! For Birchall, environmental change and the Anthropocene were to be major themes in the performance.

Birchall herself put it thus, ‘Only by going into the forest, and reconnecting with nature, do we find the characters of Midsummer recognising their own humanity, and that if their fellow Athenians, while respecting the power of the natural world.’

Such an immersive use of staging brought the natural world to forefront. By placing the action of the play within a mobile woodland, the transitions felt seamless, like the turning of dusk to night.

The meta-textuality of the play-within-a-play always brings hilarity when delivered well, and it certainly was. The cast had the audience splitting their sides with laughter in almost every scene.

On that avail, a brief note on the audience is necessary. The crowd gave as good as they got. Despite the comforts of modern life – central heating, cushioned seating, and vending machine snacks – one got the ambiance of the Elizabethan groundings. Heckles were had, hands were clapped, and general good-humoured uproar accompanied the performance.

Returning to the performance itself, the acting was phenomenal. Only such a great troop could inspire such enthusiasm from the stalls. Performances from all the company were exceptional, but I shall mention a few favourites.

Harry Gillion gave a great rendition of Bottom – hooves and all! The Athenian Forest wanderers: Lani Perry (Helena), Dom Horsman (Demetrius), Eliza Cameron (Hermia), and Yonah Rosenfield (Lysander), also gave a stellar performance. The quartet ever shifting loves, lustings and loathings brought all the hilarity and heartache this Shakespearian classic demands.

Emma Howard also gave a stunning performance as Puck/Philostrate. Being the drive behind much of the action in the forest Puck is a crucial role in the play. Howard delivered Puck with great naughtiness, mischief, and meddling. Delivered the closing epilogue with craft, Howard drew the curtain on a great performance:

‘If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these vision did appear.’

It is safe to say that a great night was had by all. None of the shadows offended, and the escapism promised by a night at the theatre was fully fulfilled by the Kings Shakespeare Company. A standing ovation was given, and rightfully rewarded – and I like many others shall wait with anticipation to see what the players have next up their sleeves.

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