A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

A good measure of the success of any Shakespeare production is a glance around the auditorium to watch the faces of any children in the audience. This A Midsummer Night’s Dream had the rapt attention from all ages from small children to more senior members of the audience.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre touring version of The Dream is a slimmed-down production in terms of cast but should no way be considered Shakespeare ‘Lite’. This versatile company wring ever drop of comic potential out of the Bard’s most accessible play.

In many ways this production returns to Shakespeare’s roots, touring with a tent, some simple props and a few musical instruments. It’s a concept that obviously works well in an open air production, but works equally well here in the Georgian Theatre Royal with the cast making use of every nook and cranny. Don’t be surprised if an actor suddenly drapes themselves over you or appears in the seat next to you.

This is a jazz-fuelled, 1920s flannel inspired Dream, sexy, sassy and above all fun. Puck is played as Cabaret’s Sally Bowles, suspenders, micro shorts and a bowler hat. Bethan Walkers gives this puck a cheeky feline quality, slinking across the stage, seducing many an audience member and not taking any flak from Simon Merrell’s slick Oberon.

Given the small scale cast the central quartet of young lovers (Louise Ford, Mark Quartley, Leon Williams and Hara Yannas) also double as the comic Mechanicals and revel in some of Shakespeare’s finest comic creations. It is perhaps though William Mannering’s Bottom who steals the show, a whirlwind of a performance using every inch of the theatre and full of comic inflection.

This is Shakespeare performed as it should be, reveling in the wonderful text but not afraid to make it fun, relevant and sexy. As those rapt faces in the audience will attest, this isn’t some dated stuffy text book but a vibrant example of the genius of Shakespeare and how his work can still thrill 400 years after it was written. If you’ve ever been scared of seeing a Shakespeare play go see this enchanting dream.

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