A Midsummer Night's Dream, Novello Theatre, London
Thursday 22 January 2009
You can usually bank on "The Dream" not lasting more than three hours, but Gregory Doran's fussy, unerotic RSC revival – a retread of his far more spirited 2005 "bottom of a supermarket trolley" Stratford-upon-Avon production – trundles on past the three-hour mark through the unfunniest "Pyramus and Thisbe" interlude I've seen in ages.
It seemed symptomatic of the show that the marriage party is almost entirely oblivious to the effortful cavorting of the mechanicals. "I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all" involved some dubious pouting on either side of Snout's red underpants. The chink in the wall is his groin.
This is not lofty. This is laboured. In this process of RSC italicisation, every point is thumped home with literal insistence and any imagery in the words is accompanied by a physical illustration. Thus any reference to an animal is mimed. Any reference to a moon is accompanied by a lunar gaze.
Sometimes the welter of detail pays off. The opening submission of old Egeus make good sense, and sets the scene for a spiral of volatility, as he rants in favour of a suited Demetrius (very well played by Edward Bennett, the heroic Hamlet understudy) against a hippy-dippy Lysander (Tom Davey). And Francis O'Connor's forest of light bulbs, reflected in a wall of mirrors, is a constant reminder of the play's emotional symmetry.
Peter de Jersey's notably well-spoken Oberon (bucking the general trend) and Andrea Harris's Titania are suspended in the welkin by over-visible harnesses when they rock the ground, and the descendent bower is a plastic crescent, awkward for fairy frolicking. Those fairies, too, are multiplied and then armed with puppets, inanimate relations of the doll-like Indian boy at the heart of the quarrel.
Joe Dixon, formerly Oberon, now paunchier if not punchier, is the new Brummie Bottom in a donkey jacket. When transformed, the ass's head covers his completely, a real throwback to the bad old days. Mark Hadfield's Puck is a disgruntled, viperish little chap, cheekily putting his girdle round the earth in 40 minutes.
But Natalie Walter and Kathryn Drysdale as Helena and Hermia suffer in the over-signalling of their performances. The great ding-dong for the lovers' quartet lacks any momentum in these circumstances. The dynamics are all wrong. Too much acting.
To 7 February (0844 482 5135; rsc.org.uk/london)
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
'Phallic symbols' found hidden in famous Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Isabella' by John Everett Millais
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
How did our legends really begin?
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
- < Previous
- Next >