A Midsummer Night’s Dream
SLIDING into December, we’re about as far from Midsummer as it’s possible to get and, in truth, we’re a long way from the wooded slopes around classical Athens, but such is the fun of this charming production that we’re every bit as captivated as ever.
For ancient Greece read a mildly fairytale woodland of butterflies and deer dancing through the multi-coloured flowers and toadstools. A woodland populated by the kind of 1960s free-love types in costumes you only ever see at test matches these days. Perhaps a little more Midsomer than Midsummer but a setting and style which works surprisingly well.
There’s a dreamy quality to Michael Rolfe’s Dream that flows through the staging, the acting and the generous use of era-defining music. Everything from Joni to the Beatles makes a contribution and there’s even a chance for a singalong at the end. Wholesale grafting of such a distinctive theme can easily backfire but that’s not the case here.
The 1960s – particularly the flowery end of the decade – did have a dark side to balance all the hippy peace and love. For every wild, dreamlike acid trip there was a crushing, catastrophic nightmare lurking.
That more troubling side, perhaps even encompassing the far-from-smooth path to women’s sexual freedom, isn’t really addressed in a production that stays firmly in the sunshine of the Summer of Love.
It’s a general rule of all theatre companies that Shakespeare will always challenge the depth of quality in a cast. A large cast needs to be confident and convincing from top to bottom and in this respect the Loft shapes up well. There are no weak links to speak of and many performances catch the eye.
The quartet of lovers – Edward Henrickson, Ted McGowan, Daisy Stone and Leonie Slater – whose fates are subject to the vagaries of magic and misunderstanding all work well and all contribute to a clear intention to keep up the pace and limit the running time.
The evergreen sub-plot of the guild of traders staging their contribution to the impending wedding celebrations is delightfully-handled. It’s a strong group within a fine cast with Rod Wilkinson as the ass-headed Bottom leading the way in digging out the comedy.
Taken as a whole it’s inventive, convincingly-rendered and, most importantly of all, actually funny.
As the nights get darker and colder this colourful, joyous production is – as it clearly sets out to be – a genuine ray of welcome sunshine.
The production runs at the Loft Theatre until December 10. Full details and ticket booking at www.lofttheatrecompany.com.