A Midsummer Night's Dream

Wed 27th February – Sat 2nd March 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 00:42 on 28th Feb 2013

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Somewhere between nu rave and the New Forest comes Benjamin Britten’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ brought to the Winston Theatre by director Claudia Jolly and musical director David Ridley. Unlike the original Shakespeare, the opera focuses almost entirely on the magical and less on the human elements of the play. Other than this, the story is Shakespeare’s in all its camp and fantastical glory. This is reflected excellently by the glowing set and warrior-like fairy ensemble that storm the stage to the orchestra’s eerie opening . The well-choreographed fairies continue to be a joy to watch and hear for the rest of the piece, especially the stroppy Peaseblossom (Poppy Zadek-Ewing). Oberon and Tytania are the king and queen of fairy land, regally portrayed by Matthew Paine and Laura Curry, while Puck (Elliot Ross), the only non-singing role, jumps cheekily between the humans and fairies causing havoc at Oberon’s behest. While the first act feels less snappy than the second two, I think this is a problem of the episodic nature of the writing rather than this particular performance and as pace picked up I was gripped.

The skillful second act, including the scene between the love-struck Tytania and Bottom, played fabulously by Charlie Morris, is the most theatrically ambitious and successful. Slightly less impressive, unfortunately, were the Athenian couples whose initial scenes slightly dragged. While Helena’s voice was incredible when it could be heard, the music often drowned out her higher notes and Lysander seemed less relaxed compared to his counterpart Demetrius. They also improved as the show went on, however, becoming more animated.

The highlight, for me, were Peter Quince and his company whose strong voices perfectly complemented the sharp comic direction. This culminates in ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ which can make or break a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The lion, the wall and the man the in the moon were faultlessly faltering alongside the star-crossed lovers and all absolutely hilarious.

Although I am familiar with the play, I have never before heard this opera and after tonight I have been totally won over to the weird and wonderful world of song. The orchestra was remarkable and included two ethereal harps. The attention to detail regarding the fairies and the acting troop brought the show to life, along with original and stunning art direction from Rosalind Russell. An utterly immersive experience.

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