I am very sorry to disappoint Mr Davies but the only shock about his re-imagining of Midsummer Night’s Dream is the volume of the background music.
Put aside any illusions that this is actually A Midsummer Night’s Dream and regard it instead as fun. The children will like it, they may find the element of queering attractively naughty and, fingers crossed, it will be a gateway to Shakespeare for a whole generation.
Bananas but highly watchable bananas. I have seen far worse productions than this and paid the equivalent of half the BBC licence fee to see them. And, yes, I am bitter.
Visually this new Dream is high-end with great costumes and make-up. The special effects and sets look very familiar to anyone acquainted with the Wizarding World. The Mechanicals live in Diagon Alley, Oberon channels lightning like Voldemort while Puck is clearly first cousin to Tinkerbell and travels as a small golden light.
Titania’s advent and exit via a vortex of leaves is real telly magic and anyone who has ever asked a teenager to load a dishwasher will enjoy the eye-rollings and lip-curlings of Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed ordered to wait upon his ungainly Furriness, Bottom.
The acting standard is very high indeed. I love the lovers: Hermia – newcomer Prisca Bakare; Demetrius – the RSC’s Paapa Essiedu; Helena – Kate Kennedy channelling Miranda but less cringe-making and Harry Potter as Lysander. They claim it was someone called Matthew Tennyson-it’s clearly the Boy who Lived- check the pictures.
Puck was the RSC’s Hiran Abeysekera and magnificently fey he was too. I haven’t seen as good a Puck since my last BBC Midsummer Night’s Dream when it was the delicious and malicious punk Phil Daniels.
Abeysekera is hypnotic. His lilting, flexible voice elevates what is already some of Shakespeare’s finest verse and after his strong performance in the current, execrable Cymbeline at the RSC, he is definitely an actor worth making a special effort to see.
For the rest, the Mechanicals are bliss with the exception of poor Elaine Paige, victim, I suspect, of some duff direction. BBC veterans Richard Wilson (Starveling) and Bernard Cribbins (Snout)- familiar to younger audiences thanks to Merlin and Dr Who- gave a character acting masterclass.
Matt Lucas as Bottom, Javone Prince as Snug and Fisayo Akinade as a tear-jerking Flute/Thisbe? All brilliant.
At the top end of the social scale though, messing around with the storyline did few favours and Titania, Oberon and Hippolyta were amongst the victims.
My heart aches especially for Greek hero Theseus re-invented as a Fascistic psychopath. Dissing Greek heroes seems to be a thing in British theatre at the moment and I am not taking it well.
So ignore the hype and social media claims that Shakespeare purists will be outraged. I think you’ll find at most some disappointment that so much of this wonderful play was hacked out. There is also more than a little pleasure that prime time Bank Holiday TV was devoted to Shakespeare, however diluted, in his 400th anniversary year.