Nottingham’s New Theatre’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted by Tara Anegada, was certainly one for the history books with its unique approach.
The set consisted of a junk-yard: items from a fridge, to sweet wrappers, to an actual toilet – you name it – it was scattered amongst the stage. In striking spray-painted letters read ‘God save the King’ on a large framed print at the front of the stage. The motif of this phrase was very effective in its subtle repetition – for example on the characters: Mustardseed’s jacket also read this phrase.
“It was really the play’s subtleties that made it most effective”
It was really the play’s subtleties that made it most effective. The casual breaking of the fourth wall when a character, for example Bottom, glanced at the audience in an awkward scene, almost always provoking a laugh. Or, Theseus’ watching of the drama unfold in the background with popcorn. It is these details that showed not only deep character development, but really added a new layer to the comedy.
“The play’s downright absurdity made it so comically effective”
The play’s downright absurdity made it so comically effective. An array of colours spread amongst the stage at all times – truly capturing the plays essence of the supernatural. There was even a psychedelic element to the performance in its frequent dance scenes where a masked man symbolizing The Magic Flower, would come in and dance with Theseus or Puck. During these scenes flashes of colours would engulf the stage with gobos of swirls – which was really effective. These scenes had the audience in tears, yet it’s fair to say the joke grew somewhat stale nearer the end of the play.
“These scenes had the audience in tears, yet it’s fair to say the joke grew somewhat stale nearer the end of the play”
This psychedelic element really helped to capture the fairy’s importance in the play. The scene transitions consisted of a flashing strobe light and a cracking sound effect – which I particularly liked as it created this dream-like atmosphere, staying true to some of the plays traditional conventions. Although Shakespeare’s plays are notoriously long, it is notable this version could’ve been cut down slightly, for some of the repeated jokes grew slightly repetitive as the play drew its course.
“One thing particularly effective about the play was its use of gender fluidity”
One thing particularly effective about the play was its use of gender fluidity. To quote Tara Anegeda, she intended to ‘create a script which would have options of male, female and gender neutral pronouns for every character. This allowed us to cast the show gender blind and really added a unique twist on the very traditionalist play. It is not only a testament to Tara’s inclusivity, but the adaptability of Shakespeare’s plays – more than 400 years on.
“Her physical movement was extremely effective and she executed her character perfectly”
The characters who really stood out would have to be Puck and Helena, Puck was presented as a ditzy, clueless fairy, however he then held his ground in his powerful closing monologue. Puck, played by Toby Russell, bought masses of energy to his character which really lifted his character and embodied the true essence of Puck. Helena, played by Lily Bailes also radiated enough energy to fill the room twice over. Her physical movement was extremely effective and she executed her character perfectly.
Overall, the play was definitely a success – the audience was almost one huge, consistent laugh throughout the whole performance. The physcialisation and energy of the performance is really what carried it, and in its subtleties lay the most hilarious parts, which is only an indication of great acting. It is also notable to state that a lot of the plays magic lay in the set and lighting. The lighting created the dream like eeriness that is so vital to the plays meaning.
“Tara and the cast created a fantastic adaptation of a great play that played homage to Shakespeare, while also taking its own unique, updated twist”
Tara and the cast created a fantastic adaptation of a great play that played homage to Shakespeare, while also taking its own unique, updated twist – although I’m not sure how Shakespeare would’ve thought of the Magic Flower twerking.
Alas, we’ll never know so, good night unto you all!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at Nottingham New Theatre from Wednesday 20th November at 7:30 pm, Thursday 21st November at 7:30pm, Friday 22nd November at 7:30 pm and Saturday 23rd November at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets available here.
Featured image courtesy of The Nottingham New Theatre Facebook page.
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