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A CurtainUp London Review
A Midsummer Night's Dream from Footsbarn
Theseus and Hippolyta talk to us and each other from Hindu type gauze tents like a Marharajah and his Maharani, unseen but clear of voice. The first surprise is the relative age of the lovers, Demetrius (Vincent Gracieux) and Lysander (Patrick Hayter doubling as Bottom) are not in the first flush of youth. Demetrius has a rust coloured wig and bright rouged cheeks and pale make-up and Lysander sports beautiful long blonde ringlets, red lipstick and neither of them will probably see 60 again! I liked the ridiculous age of the lovers emphasising that they are not just fools but old fools. If the Dream's lovers are about infatuation then the more ridiculous the better! The cast mercilessly lampoon latecomers and crying children, Helena (Muriel Picquart) fixes with her quizzical stare, the children some of whom were a little small to sit for two hours without erupting.
There is music throughout from two musicians on a variety of exotic instruments including something like a marenga. The mechanicals are hessian and straw eating yokels, country folk with their brains addled by drinking rough cider, expert clowns. These humans contrast with the otherworldly fairies in masks led by Titania (Akemi Yamauchi) whose grace of movement enchants. Joseph Cunningham doubles as a mysterious Oberon and Flute in an interesting pairing. Titania entertains Bottom, who has a huge asses head, in a giant orange lily bowery. When the court gathers at the end they hold ten foot high poles with bird like masks and feathered capes to improvise and free up the actors for their doubled roles. The costumes and masks are wildly imaginative, small works of art with creepers and natural fabrics adding to the magic of the fairy dance finale.
We came away from Footsbarn's Dream feeling light hearted and refreshed with a sense of the joyous entertainment this play has been giving people for four hundred years.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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