If you go to see this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I can recommend the standing tickets. Yes – your feet might ache a bit, but you come out feeling like you’ve been at a wild party you didn’t want to end.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the beginning: I took my 19 year old son to see this. He’s studying for a degree in Computer Science, and had never seen a Shakespeare. There was an element of risk.
But he’s also a massive Game of Thrones fan, so his reaction to the sight of GoT’s statuesque Gwendoline Christie encased in a glass box as we walked into the pit was worth the ticket price alone.
It’s an inspired piece of casting. Christie makes an imposing Hippolyta, the captured queen of the Amazons, and a magical Titania, queen of the fairies.
It’s also fun seeing Brienne of Tarth dressed up like a nun.
The early scenes are deliberately drab and make the explosion of music and acrobatics as the action shifts to the forest all the more dramatic. The set is ever-changing, with characters and beds gliding in sideways, or rising from the floor and taking flight.
There are sublime performances throughout. Oliver Chris, as Theseus/Oberon, shares several hilarious scenes with Hammed Animashaun’s unforgettable Bottom – one of them in a bathtub. The audience roared.
Not to be outdone, the “rude mechanicals” (they even have it written on their backs) squeeze plenty of laughs out of their Pyramus and Thisbe play-that-goes-wrong.
I also enjoyed the excellent chemistry – and sense of confusion – between the bewitched lovers in the forest: Isis Hainsworth (Hermia), Tessa Bonham Jones (Helena), Paul Adeyefa (Demetrius) and Kit Young (Lysander).
Director Nicholas Hytner takes delightful liberties with Shakespeare’s text, switching key characters, and making inventive use of the magic love juice.
Which brings me to David Moorst’s Puck. I saw Moorst in one of his earliest roles in Violence and Son at the Royal Court many moons ago. It was obvious then he was something special. Here he is simply extraordinary. It’s impossible to take your eyes off his twitchy, shape-shifting Puck.
There’s a genuine sense of joy in this production. I’ve never seen an audience laugh so much at a Shakespeare play. To say there’s a party atmosphere is something of an understatement.
My son is already planning to go again.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at the Bridge Theatre until 31 August