Theatre; THE PARK RSC, The Pit, London
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 & Ents blogs
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Hangover III star Heather Graham: I'll miss playing a sexy stripper because my real life is pretty boring
Hollywood practices random acts of red-carpet kindness
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Cannes Film Festival 2013: And why exactly are vous here?
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.