An interesting and funny interpretation of a classic play.
2 years ago, the Filter Theatre Company came to Southampton with their production of Twelfth Night which drew mixed reviews from critics and audiences, but now they’re back with A Midsummer Night’s Dream at NST Campus. Even without knowing of the connection between the plays it was immediately apparent. AMND brings back the audience participation, questionable use of food, and flexible 90 minute running time but in an arguably far better interpretation, with a better stage, better direction and better acting. Some viewers may recognise Amy Marchant, who played Viola and Sebastian previously, as Helena.
Holme’s interpretation takes Peter Quince’s line describing the play of Pyramus and Thisbe as a “play within a play” to new levels as a direction for the entire play. He reverses the arcs of The Mechanicals and the lovers so that the lovers’ take appears almost as a play unfolding to The Mechanicals and the fairies. This reversal meant that The Mechanicals and the fairies could totally break the 4th wall – interacting directly with the audience. This audience interaction was cleverly used to convey extra information or for comic relief, reminding the audience that they are invisible.
There were several fantastic performances throughout the play. In particular those of George Fouracres (Peter Quince), Allyson Ava-Brown and Harry Jardine (Titania and Oberon), and Kayla Meikle (Puck) – unusual in a play normally considered centred around the four lovers.
Peter Quince played a far bigger role in this production of AMND than any other I’ve seen. He served as a narrator, bearer of bad news, stand-up comic and of course as a wall. His interaction and bantering repartee with the audience was hilariously funny which came as somewhat of a surprise. There were points where it was very hard to tell where he was scripted and where he was ad-libbing. As with all The Mechanicals, his reactions to the events taking place were often nearly funnier than the events themselves. Unfortunately at points certain jokes were laboured a little thin and for a little too long and might have done with being cut a little shorter by the director, this meant that the first half of the play (there is no interval) dragged a little.
Jardine and Ava-Brown were fantastic as the King and Queen of the fairies, Titania and Oberon. With a hilarious reversal of the typical gender roles, Oberon was small, ? and extremely camp where Titania was a powerful, strong rock/goth Queen. This was seen consistently across the acting and costumes and tied in nicely with the Titania-Hippolyta connection. Continuing the theme of strong women, Puck was brilliantly cast as and played by a powerful woman – it was refreshing to see two such lead roles being played so excellently by women of colour. Meikle brought a perfect humour to the role of Puck finding the comedy in every line and bringing a new approach to the character.
It’s definitely also important to mention the excellent set design and sound of the play. The solo set was used throughout the play and with the lack of an interval and scene changes it really furthered the immersion and connection with the play. Hyemi Shin (the designer) made fantastic use of the whole stage beyond that which could be seen, utilising all possible entrances for the actors. The sound of the play was also fantastically designed by Chris Branch and Tom Haines with Alan Pagan (the fearsome and terrifying Lion) also controlling the sound desk from on stage as well as being a drummer in the rock group of The Mechanicals.
Overall the show was a very interesting interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which captured the comedy of the original fantastically. If however you prefer traditional Shakespeare then this is probably not the performance for you.
Check out Filter’s production trailer for A Midsummer Night’s Dream below: