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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Spoiler Warning! A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Me and Mrs Cool recently went to Northern Stage to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. I enjoy a lot of Shakespeare's plays, I remember reading a few in high school and one of them was A Midsummer Nights Dream and it remains one of my favourites 20+ years later (good god has it really been that long!).

I work most nights until 8pm but managed to get an early finish, so after smuggly saying goodbye to my colleagues I hopped on the X6 bus and headed to town. The show didn't start until start until 7.15 so we met in McKenna's Cafe Bar which is on site at the Northern Stage. I was greeted by Mrs Cool who had already got me pint (I was disappointed they didn't have any John Smiths but Wylam Ale was an acceptable alternative). We had a catch up about our day and by the time we had finished our drinks it was time to take our seats ready for the show.

Our seats were pretty good


The play opens with Theseus, Duke of Athens (Sam Redford) and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Laura Harding) discussing their wedding plans when they are interrupted. Egeus (Peter Hamilton Dyer) wants his daughter Hermia (Mercy Ojelade) to marry Demetrius (Chris Nayak) but Hermia loves Lysander (Jack Holden). The Duke states that Athenian Law dictates that Hermia must obey her father or she will be executed (a bit extreme I know but the play was written circa 1595). The Duke gives Hermia some time to make her decision. Hermia and Lysander decide they will meet in the forest and run away together.  Hermia confides in her friend Helena (Laura Riseborough) their plans, however Helena loves Demetrius and decides to tell him Hermia and Lysanders plan in the hopes that Demetrius will look more favourably on her. Is it still a love triangle when four people are involved? (a love square maybe?)

Image credit Topher McGrillis


The setting of the play in this production had been transported from ancient Greece to to the 1940's with Theseus and Hippolyta dressed in aristocratic formal wear,  Egeus was dressed as and army officer while Demetrius and Lysander were dressed as wealthy gentlemen. The change in setting did not detract from the story, Mrs Cool mentioned in the interval how Shakespeare can be timeless and that the themes of forbidden and unrequited love are still valid today over 400 years after A Midsummer Nights Dream was 1st performed.

Next we meet a group of amateur actors, The Mechanicals (in this performance played by actual amateur actors from The Peoples Theatre), who are planning a performance of 'The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe'. This is where the comedy really starts as the amateurs are hilarious. Before the show I was wondering if the language of Shakespeare would make me laugh and I can confirm that the Bard's work made me literally LOL. Peter Quince (Jo Kelly) dishes out the scripts and lets all the actors know which part they will play. Bottom (Pete McAndrew) is tasked with playing the titular Pyramus but as Peter assigns each other performer their part Bottom hilariously insist he should also play that part. The players decide to meet in the forest to rehearse so they won't be interrupted. 

Image credit Topher McGrillis


Things now take a surreal turn as we are transported to the forest where Fairies are having a party. Oberon, King of the Fairies (Chu Omambala), comes swaggering down a staircase. Oberon is angry with his Queen, Titania (Ayesha Dharker), as she has an Indian Changling (whatever one of those are) and he wants it as one of his knights. Oberon is furious and decides to make a fool of Titania. He asks one of his sprites, Puck (Lucy Ellinson), to get some magic potion that will make Titania fall in love with the 1st creature she sees when she wakes up. Puck, who is brilliant, flies off around the world, which involved clambering over the audience and even nicking a drink off someone in the front row! 

Image credit Topher McGrillis


Soon after Titania falls asleep in the forest the Mechanicals arrive to begin rehearsals so the mischievous Puck decides the 1st creature Titania will see is going to be Bottom but first he replaces Bottom's head with the head of an Ass. This transformation terrifies the rest of the Mechanicals who leg it. Bottom doesn't care and is full of himself as Titania falls instantly in love with him and her Fairies wait on him hand and foot.

Image credit Topher McGrillis


Happy that his plan has worked Oberon decides to resolve the love square involving Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius by using the love potion to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena but this goes all tits up when Puck gives the potion to Lysander and Demetrius who both fall in love with Helena. The verbal jousting between Demetrius and Lysander both trying to profess their love for Helena as well as Helena believing they are trying to make a fool of them leads to more hilarity, but poor Hermia is distraught that her love no longer loves her. 

Image credit Topher McGrillis

Puck eventually fixes everything and Hermia and Lysander are back together and Demetrius ends up wth Helena and everyone thinks they just had a weird dream and decide they too will get married along with Theseus and Hippolyta. 

Image credit Topher McGrillis


Image credit Topher McGrillis


Oberon lifts the spells from Bottom, who runs back to meet the other Mechanicals, and Titania who he embraces. After the triple wedding is the Mechanicals' performance of 'The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe' and this was the highlight of the whole show. There were roars of laughter as the amateur actors fluff their way through the performance.


This was one of the best plays I have ever seen the stand out performances for me where Puck and Bottom but the entire cast were phenomenal. Me and Mrs Cool have said for years that we would love to go to The Globe Theatre to see one of Shakespeare's plays and I think we need to make this happen soon. This performance confirmed why A Midsummer Nights Dream is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays and one of my favourite quotes comes from this play and if perfectly sums up the story "The course of true love never did run smooth".

The play continues until 26th March at Northern Stage. you can buy tickets here.


Well thats all for now.

S
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