A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Oxford Playhouse, 10-14.06.03

At the Playhouse this week Propeller, the all-male company that brought us the acclaimed Shakespeare adaptation ‘Rose Rage’, is performing the delicate, frothy, fairy-stuffed comedy, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The stage is a bare white space dressed with ladders and chairs; a scattering of fairies gathers as the audience chatters. Fairies, because they’re in their underwear, snowy-white longjohns and vests, an occasional corset marking the female characters. The atmosphere is defiantly modern; the staging and costumes so bare they seem elaborate. Fortunately Puck (Simon Scardifield, winsome and bouncy in stripey tights and a tutu) is on hand with coats and skirts so everyone knows their role; Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is perfectly noble and passionate as Lysander, Jonathon McGuinness a rather retiring Hermia, Matt Flynn makes a good-humoured Theseus, Emilio Doorgasingh is stroppy and strident as warrior queen Hippolyta. The actors flicker between human, fairy and rustic, slipping between roles (except Guy Williams and Richard Clothier as Oberon and Titania) by putting on workbelts, petticoats and sparkly shoes. Being king or queen of the fairies is a full-time job, and one that merits feathers, satin, glitter, and a great deal of deliciously louche drama and posturing. Music, some wonderful songs, and the necessary special effects are all performed by the actors with easy skill, but the best of them is still in the comedy; Robert Hands, pitifully hilarious as long-legged Helena, pummeling the stage and tearing her hair; Jules Werner (Flute) finding his perfect role as a raging Thisbe in pink satin and an incongruous snake; a bewildered Bottom (Tony Bell) incoherently bemoaning his lost fairy queen. The company that describes itself as “searching for the concord of this discord” seems effortlessly in tune with itself; and always ready to throw the joke back at the audience. Don’t miss the songs in the interval!

Jeremy Dennis, 10.06.03

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