A Midsummer Night's Dream
The East London Shakespeare Festival is newly set up and we were fortunate enough to get to see one of the previews of their first production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Of all the Shakespeare I’ve seen this is one play which I have somehow always missed but have said I would want to see it in an outdoor setting which it is perfectly suited to so was excited to see this production.
The set-up is perfect for the festival atmosphere they wish to create. You can rent chairs or sit on a blanket and have a picnic making it much more relaxed than the usual theatre setting and there is the beautiful back-drop of the trees behind the staging area. And as the light dims with the setting sun it helps create a magical feeling which is what make outdoor theatre so special.
Shakespeare though is notoriously difficult to get right. With language that can be difficult to follow at times the cast and director need to fully understand the material and know exactly what they want the audience to take from each scene. Fortunately this company have that understanding. The director Katherine Hare has created a production which is easy to understand and draws the audience in. She has ensured the important plot points are clearly emphasised and has a lot of fun with the story. It is particularly effective when she leans into the comedy and lets this shine through. The cast create loveable characters which you root for while enjoying the mischief played on them all. With a cast of just nine each actor took on multiple roles which were easily distinguishable from the costumes and the markedly different characterisations. It requires a lot of talent to create such distinct characters within the same show and they should be commended for this.
As with all Shakespeare some changes are made to give it a more modern feel and this was done through some of the costumes and the music festival setting. The pop music medley early on was surprising and fun, with music being used to great effect throughout. After “& Juliet” we shouldn’t be surprised to find another show where Shakespeare and Katy Perry fit so well together!
The company have said they are “committed to bringing high quality and accessible Shakespeare to East London audiences” and with this production they can say they are fulfilling that aim. It’s a great family show and is a good introduction to Shakespeare to anyone unfamiliar, including children. The shows are being produced at a series of parks until August 1st with the schedule and tickets available here. It’s an enjoyable evening and I’d urge you to go if you have the chance.
Rating: 3 Stars