A Midsummer Night's Dream

Posted on: 03 February 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews the dark, disturbing yet delightful production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A true sense of magic permeates through Greg Doran’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC which has transferred from Stratford to the Novello Thatre in London.

Celebrations are planned to mark the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.  Egeus brings his rebellious daughter Hermia in front of the Duke.  She is refusing to marry Demetrius, her father’s choice because she is in love with Lysander. 

The Duke orders Hermia to obey her father or, according to Athenian law, she must either face death or enter a convent.  Hermia and Lysander decide to elope that night.  They confide their plan to their friend Helena and she, in love with Demetrius and hoping to win his affection, tells him of the plan.  That night, all four lovers steal away into the forest.

Meanwhile, Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, have quarrelled over Titania’s refusal to give up her changeling boy to Oberon.  He sends Puck to find a magic plant, the juice of which, squeezed on the eyes of someone sleeping, will cause them to fall in love with the first creature they see on waking. 

Oberon uses the juice on Titania and she falls rapturously in love with Bottom, a tradesman who has been bewitched by Puck.  Oberon also tells Puck to use the juice on Demetrius so that he will fall in love with Helena, but Puck, mistaking the two Athenian youths, uses it on Lysander instead who falls in love with Helena.

This is a production which is dark, disturbing, yet delightful, in which comedy, drama and poetry are skilfully blended and in which Shakespeare’s exploration of dream and reality, reason and imagination and love and hate come to the fore.  The Athenian wood is conjured up by a forest of flickering orange light bulbs which create a certain mood of enchantment, while the fairies are presented as mischievous spirits dressed in punkish black, brandishing sinister voodoo-like dolls.

Director Doran draws strong performances from his RSC ensemble, notably Tom Davey as Lysander, Kathryn Drysdale as Hermia, Edward Bennett as Demetrius, Natalie Walter as Helena, Peter De Jersey as Oberon, Andrea Harris as Titania and an ageing, stocky Mark Hadfield as Puck, all of whom bring a refreshing vitality to their roles.

This then is another feather in the RSC’s cap!

By Laurence Green

Show Details

Where: Novello Theatre. London

When: Plays in repertory until 7th February 2009.

Box Office: 0844 482 5135.

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