Theatre; THE PARK RSC, The Pit, London

In a crowded German all-night cafe, a man and a woman are engaged in what appears to be a very hesitant private rehearsal of A Midsummer Night's Dream. "I know a bank..." the woman begins encouragingly, staring deep into her partner's eyes. Given the contemporary urban setting, you feel she could be referring to a bottlebank as the one "where the wild thyme blows" and the exchange proceeds as though she were giving therapy to an actor, hired to play Oberon, who has suffered traumatic memory-loss.

This pair aren't thespians, though, they're the real thing. Shakespeare's King and Queen of the Fairies, now conceived as incongruous, time-travelling revenants, condemned to repeat a myth which - as is abundantly clear by this late stage of The Park - they have lost the power to control. Brought to darkly witty, wonderfully suggestive life in David Fielding's staging for the RSC, Botho Strauss's "continuation" of the Dream revealingly dislocates it in a modern German social setting peopled by "sterile subsidised self-realisers" in their personal cages and by alienated teenagers. Barren ground for the fairy duo, who have to flash like filthy mac perverts, to get attention? Not entirely, since you sense a yearning the myth still has the capacity to heighten.

"Are you sure we're awake? Sometimes I feel that we're asleep and it's something else that's awake...": the malaise of these contemporary characters is altogether more existential than anything suffered in the Dream, an inwardly-turned madness rather than the healthier lunacy of love. Accordingly, the micro-sculpture amulets, which are The Park's equivalent of Puck's magic flower-juice, don't just demonstrate, in the speed with which they cause people to switch their amatory interests, the alarming arbitrariness of love-objects. They also release, in Helen (Julie Graham), the breathtaking racial prejudices her conscious mind manages to repress, with the comic result that the previously besotted George (Simon Dormandy) now feels he's been tricked into shacking up with a star-member of the Ku-Klux-Klan.

Thematic motifs from the Shakespeare surface in a provocatively warped way. The underlying bestial cruelty of the trick played on the Fairy Queen via Bottom is emphasised here by reverting to the Pasiphae and the bull myth on which it is based. Beginning risibly ("Make me a cow's arse!" yells Louise Jameson's superb, on-heat Titania), it ends with one of the most disconcerting sights I've ever seen being dragged on to a stage: the gorily ravaged, all-too-realistic hindquarters of a cow and the protruding upper half of a humiliated and confused woman who has to beg not to be made a spectacle in front of the children. Sickened by the self-interested disobedience of the old, pervy Puck-figure Cyprian (excellent Barry McCarthy) that has allowed Titania to become this "blood-soaked myth", Adrian Lukis's Oberon resigns his magic powers and joins a video-company.

Fielding's excellently acted and designed production has an intuitive feel for the various performance styles this demanding work requires. Often very funny (there's a delicious take on the young Minotaur as a hooved, Peter York-ish fop), it is also - as is proper for a work in which the spirit of Shakespeare's comedy leaks stirringly (if, in the end, impotently) into the senses of the contemporary personnel - a strangely haunting experience.

n Booking 0171-638 8891

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk