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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Hippolyte, I wooed thee with my sword. — Theseus
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ferdy Roberts as Puck
(Photo: Keith Pattison)
A few years' back my editor suggested that I might have reviewed enough productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and I would tend to agree with her. However, when we hear that Filter have re-imagined this most famous of Shakespeare's comedies, I do know it will be a completely different experience. What would their take be? How would they “filter” or distil the essence of this play, which is about the ridiculous hold that love has on us and the disturbance to the natural order, when the King and Queen of the Fairies are in discord?

Sean Holmes who directs this anarchic cast is also the Artistic Director of the Lyric. The play opens with an Irish actor (Ed Gaughan, also as director of the Mechanicals, Peter Quince) warming us up in a delightful stand up routine and very refreshing it is for jaded theatre critics.

There is some extra excitement with an unknown casting which I shall not spoil for you here. There are fine allusions to the royal wedding in Athens relating it to the London event last April before we meet Theseus (Jonathan Broadbent) and Hippolyte (Poppy Miller) and we are briefly introduced to Egeus (Ferdy Roberts), his daughter Hermione (Victoria Moseley) and the two men in Hermione's life, Demetrius (Simon Manyonda) and Lysander (John Lightbody).

It gets very exciting when Ferdy Roberts as Puck, an irascible techy, back stage man complete with tool belt, bursts through the scenery ripping away the thick cartridge paper to make a spectacular and commanding entrance. Oberon (Jonathan Broadbent) flies in wearing a blue sparkling super hero suit and silver cape, with the letter O emblazoned on his chest, and wings having been added to his chunky, white trainers. Puck continues to walk through paper walls, angrily head butting them as he goes and when he collects the juice of the flower in a paint dispenser, it stains all who come into contact with it bright blue so we are never in any doubt as to who has been affected by the drug.

There is spying on the lovers with a microphone revealing what they are whispering in the tent and Puck and Oberon draw up two picnic chairs, open two cans of lager and proceed to watch the lovers argue, while munching on their picnic. A food fight ensues with cast and audience lobbing scotch eggs and sausage rolls at each other. Bottom (uncredited actor) is the only one I've ever seen not to wear donkey's ears but he brays reassuringly. Hermia and Helena (Rebecca Scroggs) debate and sing a song together. There are invisible fairies who make supernatural, electronic noises and every so often Oberon, Titania or Puck will long sufferingly remind the cast that they are invisible. The play within a play is thankfully reduced to a few seconds but not before we have enjoyed Ed Gaughan's anxious word mouthing theatre director.

There are songs and music and Bottom has a wonderful rock singing voice. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. I'm not sure what the school parties will have made of this idiosyncratic Dream, especially if they hadn't read the play first but the message surely will be that Shakespeare is fun!

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A Midsummer Night's Dream
Written by William Shakespeare but created by Filter
Directed by Sean Holmes

Starring: Ferdy Roberts, John Lightbody, Jonathan Broadbent, Poppy Miller, Mark Benton, Ed Gaughan
With: simon Mayonda, Victoria Moseley, Rebecca Scroggs, Chris Branch, Alan Pagan
Designed by Hyemi Shin
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick
Sound and Music: Tom Haines and Chris Branch
Running time: One hour 40 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0871 2211 729
Booking to 17th March 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on the 17th February 2012 performance at the Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, London W6 0QL (Tube: Hammersmith)

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