The setting of Regents Park’s Open Air Theatre seemed somewhat fitting for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sitting in the amphitheatre with the rustling of trees and the evening light slowly fading overhead one would expect to witness some moonlit magic and dreamy romance, but one must think again.
Director Matthew Dunster chose to swap the trees for a crane, a white van and a few caravans as his production sought to take audiences not into a magical forest but what seemed to be a gypsy camp. I was somewhat taken back with the outrageously pink My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding style dresses but they suited the setting and create a colourful and humorous aesthetic. The production reminds me of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem and carried connotations of middle England, which suit Dunster’s almost ‘state of the nation’ revamp of Shakespeare’s comedy and highlight modern connections between the play and society.
The rivalry between Tom Padley’s Lysander and Kingsley Ben Adir’s Demetrius sits well strewn between piles of bricks and steel barricades and the language thankfully is kept authentic and true. Oliver Johnstone’s Puck was by far the most interesting character in this production. His menacing portrayal of the fairy, played out on a BMX and wearing a hoodie, created sinister undertones that occasionally appear throughout the performance allowing one to see a darker side of the text.
There were some good performances throughout, George Bukhari’s Bottom had me laughing out loud and Titania portrayed by Tamsin Carroll had some excellently choreographed movement scenes and one lovely moment when the caravan divides to display her lying on a grassy bank, reminding the audience of the plays intentions, that this may be nothing but a dream. I did feel that some scenes were a little out of place, most strikingly the Players choreographed street dance routine which felt lost in the structure of the piece, this made me cringe a little inside and did nothing to move the narrative along.
Overall this is a very daring and interesting interpretation and generally very well put together. There is good, strong visual imagery and a nice combination of realism and fantasy. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it is well worth the trip.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 5th September 2012. For more information or to book tickets please click here.