As everyone knows, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play written by William Shakespeare for 17 actors…but what happens when you are a small company with 7 actors, no budget, no lights, no sound effects and no design and only that big dream to bring this play on stage at any cost?
Well, you have to use and work with a difficult key word, actually two:IMAGINE and LAUGH…and, why not, a really helpful audience.
GO PEOPLE and GLASS HALF FULL production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Southwark Playhouse follows a group of seven actors who tries to make this absurd attempt…a #7actordream.
On the no/present stage, just a corridor between two sides stalls, there is just a simple table and few young actors trying to figure out how to bring the pages to life. The audience becomes part of the play whatever through referencing and talking directly to it, especially when the actors break out of their characters or becoming part of the cast to cover the gap of the actors needed together on stage…or as a little bit creepy magic flower.
But don’t forget that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play about what is real and what is not so…are we sure about what we are looking at?
Well, dream or not, at first we are looking at a work gleeful from start to end. More important, we are looking at seven terrific dreamily actors doing something simply extraordinary, totally exposed at the audience mercé for 110 minutes without a break.
When we enter the main room at the Southwark Playhouse, while we are looking for the right seats, six young people are chatting around a table, book in hand, trying to find a way to bring one of the most known Shakespearian play to life. A huge amount of ideas flow like a swollen river…suddenly the last actor of the company arrives, and we knew that the real stars are always the latest to arrive to an event…or in this case to a rehearsal. We don’t need another clue to figure out who is the cocky in the chicken hen here…is Freddie (Fox) and, if you are an actor named Freddie too who has to work with him, well, be smart and introduce yourself with a cool middle name…not as our poor Freddie William Hutchins from now better known just as William.
Freddie Fox acting skills are not a not a news…extraordinary as Demetrius, outstanding as Nick Bottom…with a terrific transformation in to a donkey that outshines even Bradley Cooper’s Elephant Man. Marvellous and unusually bossy as Freddie, with a hat from the Siena Palio; a little bit out of place here as he is a real “ass” (especially when he tries to teach the right pronunciation of the French word “adieu” to every one of his friends) and not a magnificent thoroughbred…but we are working to find him a proper hat from the Alba donkeys Palio.
Fox’s favourite victim is the other Freddie…William Hutchins. If you had the change to see him at the Shakespeare’s Globe in one of the not to be miss Read Not Dead you are aware about what is capable of. Dramatically funny as Lysander; tenderness as himself bossed by Mr. Fox (who insist in touching him annoyingly even when his character “is still behind a bloody wall”); joyful extraordinary as a well red lipstickened Thisbe.
Outstanding performances also from the rest of the cast: Lucy Eaton (Murder Maps) as Helena and Starveling; Melanie Fullbrook as Puck; Maddy Hill (EastEnders) as Titania and Quince; Ludovic Hughes (Double Troble) as Oberon and Theseus and Suzie Preece as Hermia and Snug.
A huge well deserved success for Director Simon Evans.
“Are there any purists in tonight?” asks Puck after 20 minutes…surely not; but we are sure that even one as William Shakespeare himself would laugh with the audience approving this extraordinary work… and maybe he would also sing along “Happy Winter” as Marilyn Monroe impression of “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.
A theatre that becomes essence returning to the essentials…magic and imagination.
“Let me play the lion too. I will roar, that I will do any man’s heart good to hear me. I will roar, that I will make the Duke say: ‘Let him roar again; let him roar again!'”
At Southwark Playhouse until 1 July 2016 (www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk)
Hear also what George McKay, Charles Dance, Jack&Emilia and Laurence Fox have to say about the play here.