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
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor