A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Review
- Credit: © Jane Hobson
Dominic Hill’s vivid Dream in the natural wonderland of Regent’s Park boldy imagines a world of class wars, misogyny and environmental issues
With two productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream already playing in London this season, the pressure is on for this new one staged in the natural wonderland that is Regent Park's Open Air Theatre.
Director Dominic Hill reimagines the Athenian world of entangled love in bold contemporary hues: cruel courtiers and willful fairies clash over ownership of the environment, and a diverse cast finds light and darkness in verse that's bracingly clear in its delivery.
Hill's production slams the senses with a sharply choreographed beat-box sound-tracked opening: Theseus and Hippolyta party with posh boys Demetrius and Lysander - and the object of their affections, Hermia - in a tableaux that resembles a stylish Mad Hatter's tea party.
Enter Hermia's childhood best friend, scorned Helena [a powerhouse performance by Remy Beasley] portrayed here in jolly hockey-sticks mode, as Hill takes aim at an entitled society's decadence and dated misogyny.
Helena fights for her right to choose who she loves, taking Lysander's smacks with barely a flinch and slugging him right back.
The physicality continues in the eerie incarnation of the ghoulish fairies who crawl out of the foliage on stilts and crutches, predatory and whimsically curious. If some of the poetry and romance fails to surface between fairy king and queen, Hill's vision of a world where self-gratification is paramount is a key point here.
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When the Mechanicals enter the forest for rehearsals dressed in flashes of neon like a group of festival goers, their selfishness is neatly ridiculed: a bemused fairy taps on some Tupperware tossed into the bushes.
Susan Wokoma's would-be thespian Bottom is notably loveable; wide-eyed and startled when she discovers she has a luxuriant tail. The casting of a woman trapped inside a troubling physique makes perfect sense.
The comedy scenes are shamelessly bawdy at times, with an excellent turn from Gareth Snook as Quince.
Puck [Myra McFadyen] is an androgynous magician-sprite in sparkly tuxedo who plays at being a ventriloquist's dummy. As the circle of fairy lights dominating Rachael Canning's set change colours and the evening draws to a close, it's as if the elements are humming a warning.