A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, in so many ways, the perfect, uplifting, lazy summer evening show, and BMH Productions channelled a joyful Butlins/festival vibe, with flowers hung on Oxford Prison for the Bard’s most popular play (part of the Oxford Shakespeare Festival).
In the presence of plummeting pigeons and bemused tourists, this sensibly distanced and outdoor show (sanitised blankets rentable for a small fee) is ushered in on a run of disco classics. The flowery young lovers - mildly star-crossed by Cate Nunn as a schoolmarmish Egeus - stamp and pout and act up until even the fairies are exasperated! Hermia (Erica Gouveia) finds stonewashed denim is no protection against the slings and arrows of thwarted love, while Elizabeth Lindsay stamps and storms deliciously as Helena.
There was also plenty of fighting and falling over: Lysander (Jordan Bische) and Demetrius (Sam Foster) are charmingly idiotic. The fairies, by contrast, are neon-bright, in satin and tat, fishnet and feathers. Isobel Rathband is a sparky, sparkly Puck: infinitely distractible and impishly unconcerned by the chaos that follows her. Guy Grimsley, in feathers and eyeliner, struts and snarls as trickster-king Oberon, while Justine Malone is a turbulent Titania with proper force and gusto - easily her husband’s match.
Amid the party pop classics, the terrifying “roars” of the rude mechanicals erupt into a wonderful play within a play (one that almost outshines the main event). Joe O’Conner as Flute and Ian Nutt as Bottom are bathetically brilliant as the doomed lovers, John Baron makes a delightfully huggable lion and Kate O’Connor’s turn as a very thorough and thoughtful wall brings the house down.
It’s a fun watch - proving that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing in feathers and sequins, to a disco soundtrack, with courage, conviction, humour and delight.