Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Article 19 transported us back to the 90s with their fun spin on Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The production was awash with silly string, glitter, and double denim. The costumes were brilliant. Puck (Antonia Strafford-Taylor) was dressed in a tie-dye t-shirt, dungarees, and a bum bag. When she wasn’t rollerblading around the stage, she was playing with a Tamagotchi. The grandma in me was a bit concerned that Strafford-Taylor wasn’t wearing a helmet or kneepads when she was rollerblading, but luckily we didn’t witness any accidents!

Strafford-Taylor was full of energy throughout the play, constantly reacting to the other characters on stage and running around like a little sprite. She had a great relationship with Oberon (Alex Wilcox), almost like a father-daughter bond. There was a nice moment when they both appeared in the windows of the Room of Requirement looking down at the mischief they caused with the lovers in the forest. When Wilcox had to spy on the lovers, he threw glitter into the air and exclaimed ‘I am invisible!’ which was very amusing. The whole cast were covered in glitter by the end of the play.

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Vita Fox was outstanding as Helena. We felt her for in her bouts of sadness, but Fox also made the audience laugh with her quick timing and bitter remarks. When she kissed Demetrius (Dominic Ryder) at the end of the play, the audience let out a happy cheer. Fox made the Shakespearean language sound like present day English, which demonstrated impressive skill. Unfortunately, some of the other performers lacked clarity, notably Lysander (Reece Roberts) and Quince (Abby Gandy), who were hard to understand at points. In addition, Hermia (Arianne Brooks) was very natural, yet quiet, and perhaps too understated for the role. Brooks and Roberts seemed to lack chemistry. In the scene where Lysander tries to convince Hermia to let him sleep with her, a moment of potential heat or tenderness between the lovers was lost, as the directors opted instead for Roberts to perform a cheesy dance.

The scene between Titania (Nia Tilley) and Bottom (Benedict Churchus) was very entertaining. Churchus gave a wonderful performance as Bottom. He had the audiences in stitches with his singing as an ass, which was only intensified when Tilley awoke with the line ‘what angel wakes me?’ Regrettably Titania does not get enough lines or stage time, because I would have liked to see a lot more of Tilley. Her stage presence was captivating.

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Considering it was the first time the cast had run the play with tech in the Debating Hall it was a bit shambolic, but they pulled it off. Some of the scene changes at the beginning were rather slow, and it would have been good to have music on for longer in the opening scene as Hippolyta (Robyn Hughes) was on stage for a while in silence and we were left wondering when it was going to spring into action. Some of the actors seemed unsure of their cues, and at one point the side door was left open and you could see the actors running back stage, which made it look slightly unprofessional. However, this did not take away massively from the strength of the performance. There were some lovely elements, such as Snug (Nell Baker) performing a lullaby to send Titania to sleep, which was written by Ellie Galvin. Baker played guitar and sang beautifully. Laura Sharpe, the assistant director, created puppets for the fairies, which were a great addition to the production. At one point they were used as shadow puppets behind a screen. The effect of this was beautiful and I only wish that there were more moments of shadow puppetry throughout the play. Overall, there were some great performances and the actors had us laughing constantly. Another successful production for Article 19 this term!

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