Hermia refuses to follow her father’s advice and marry Demetrius, choosing instead to be with Lysander (Hunter). But in Athens a daughter must marry her father’s selected suitor or face the punishment of death.
The young lovers therefore decided to escape Athenian restrictions and get married in a land far away, however in order to get there they must travel through a mysterious woodland. Demetrius (Ousellm) determines to follow the couple in the hope that he may win Hermia around to his affections however following him is Helena (Loudon), who is desperate for Demetrius to view her as his one true love. Also in the wood are a group of 6 unintelligent actors who are rehearsing a play to be performed for the marriage of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta. What the troupe hadn’t bargained for was Fairy King Oberon (an excellent Mansfield) and his aide Puck (Malaolu), whose magical meddling alter the lives of the newly arrived Athenians.
The production opens creatively inside a school detention as a group of unruly teenagers are force by a mysteriously powerful teacher to act out A Midsummer Night’s Dream as their punishment. The opening sequence comprises clever and imaginative dance like movement before the set changes to a rather simple looking enchanted wood. It is here where the production disappoints slightly as the staging and costume somewhat undermined the promising and inventive start. While the production includes movement throughout it would have been great if director Rae Mcken had focused solely upon that aspect as it would have turned a frequently performed and familar play into something really interesting.
It was thus the performances of a few strong cast members that really held my attention and in particular the dynamic between Lanre Malaolu and Liam Mansfield as Puck and Oberon respectively. However the two actors didn’t just shine as those characters; Mansfield also played King Theseus and displayed brilliant characterisation as he switched effortlessly between the two, while Malaolu went from strong, powerful and dominant Puck to camp, comical and flamboyant Philostrate magnificently. Ashley Hunter as Flute dressed as a woman provided much of the second half’s comedy and Naoufal Ousellam was highlight entertaining as a Northern dim Snug.
This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had the potential to be an original re-interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s classic if the movement element had of been the sole focus. That not being the case it’s the actors and their performances rather than the whole production, who’ll be remaining long in the memory.
Reviewed by Karla Williams
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing at the Almeida Theatre on 20th & 21st July. To book tickets please visit: http://www.almeida.co.uk/event/custompractice