REVIEW: THE SHADOWMASTER, King s Head Theatre, Islington

Four star rating This is set on Midsummer Night and is JM Barrie s version of Shakespeare s Dream. Here is an enchanted forest, a confusion of lovers, uncharacteristic behaviour from most of the unlovely prot


King's Head Theatre


Four star rating

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This is set on Midsummer Night and is JM Barrie's version of Shakespeare's Dream.

Here is an enchanted forest, a confusion of lovers, uncharacteristic behaviour from most of the unlovely protagonists and an immortal maestro, Lob, who sets everything in motion assisted by his puckish servant, Matey.

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The guests who arrive at Lob's crumbling mansion have no idea why they have been invited or who their host is.

There is the vile, snobbish Lady Caroline (Helen Anker), all strangled upper-class vowels and rudeness to servants, Mabel and Jack Purdy (Katherine Kastis and Oliver Stoney) - a young married couple - and their sexy friend Joanna (Charlotte Radford). Will Dearth (Billy Geraghty) is an artist who is losing his talent through overindulgence in alcohol and Oona Kirsch is his tight-lipped, wealth-obsessed wife, Alice.

They are all lured into a magic forest where their whole way of thinking is turned upside down.

The most effective part of this production is when Will meets the imaginary child played by a talented and totally uncute child actress, Polly Dartford (or Naomi Preston-Law).

This shows that the advice about never working with children is not valid. The child makes Will's boozy and lacklustre character spring to life and shows the vitality of the man that might have been.

Lob is played as a posturing Gene Wilder look-alike by Keith Faulkner and Neil Henry handles his magic tricks well and is delightfully quirky as Matey.

Georgia Lowe's setting is like a fairy tale - dusty pastels with silken ragged drapes hanging around - a place where Miss Haversham would feel completely at home.

It is inventively lit by Peter Harrison and there is effective underscoring and witty sound bites from composer, Greg Patmore, and sound designer Anthony Coleridge.

Some may find it over whimsical and irritating - although it is Lob's unnecessary moralising at the end that breaks the spell for me.

Director Stephanie Sinclaire has cast her characters beautifully and added modern relevance to her adaptation, dressing them in fashionable but slightly quaint dress.

This is an elegant, stylish production of an enjoyable fairy tale.

Until September 7.

Aline Waites

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