Streamed live online 31 March
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Produced as part of the SHAKE Festival, this rehearsed reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delight. Unlike the RSC’s Puck -inspired Dream, this is unashamedly low tech with just a change of lighting or simple backgrounds to suggest settings and characters.
The joy of a rehearsed reading is that the lack of bells and whistles ensures that the focus is entirely on the language and delivery, and under Jenny Caron Hall’s direction, this cast certainly delivers.
Dan Stevens is a calm but ruthless Theseus, laying down the law to Hermia and Lysander and setting in motion the misadventures in the woods. There are no histrionics from Stevens as the steely Oberon either, although the frustration as events spiral out of his control is portrayed expertly. Rebecca Hall is magical as Hippolyta and Titania – ethereal, but wonderfully animated in her reactions – especially as she watches the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. The rude mechanicals are still funny without slapstick and lots of physical comedy (instead they all have comedy accents) – Luisa Omielan is a hoot as Bottom and Tim Fitzhigham as Flute producing some facial expressions that Marty Feldman would be proud of. Wendy Morgan’s Puck is a waspish treat, and the four lovers impress, with Barnaby Taylor (Lysander) and Louis Rudnicki (Demetrius) keeping the insipid male characters interesting, and Máiréad Tyers and Daniel Bowerbank excelling as the wonderful Hermia and Helena. Even without physical contact, the two manage to convey the fracturing and repair of their loving friendship beautifully.
This reading is an absolute joy – calm and measured, allowing Shakespeare’s words to drift over the audience like a dream.