Dublin Theatre Festival 2016: A Midsummer Night's Dream
A rock 'n' roll Shakespeare
Some maintain that Shakespeare was the literary rock star of his day. Going to a performance of one of his comedies was like going to a rock concert. And not The Eagles kind of rock concert. The other kind. The rowdy, bawdy, Little Richard meets Lemmy from Motorhead kind. The kind that rips it up and tears the house down, physically. UK based Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre would seem to agree with this assessment, and have given Shakespeare’s classic ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the unadulterated rock and roll treatment. And thank God they did. Raucous and relentless, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ becomes a rock and roll fable, full of fairies and donkeys and mismatched humans, all drowning in desire and magical love juice. Imbued with all the heart, soul and energy of a punk gig, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is just the best fun around.
In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ there’s a heightened meta-theatricality in play as its eleven strong cast set about playing with the play and with its telling. Or attempts to tell it. While all the important bits are there, as well as many other bits not in the original, it certainly helps if you already know the story of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ before seeing this production. For it's “what if” gone wild. What if Oberon was a bungling superhero, or if Puck was a world weary roadie? What if we try a little doo wop here, a little metal there, a food fight for the fun of it and maybe even some simulated sex? What if we could get Al Pacino, or Brendan Gleeson, or that guy Steve with the shopping bags? Flipping all over the place with a knowing and contemporary feel, it still manages to feel like Shakespeare.
Co-directors Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll do a terrific job channelling the chaos into a cohesive whole, which one suspects was probably achieved by wisely letting the lunatics take over the asylum. The ensemble of excellent lunatics being Keith Be Barra, Clare Dunne, James Fortune, Ed Gaughan, Harry Jardine, John Lightbody, Fergus O’Donnell. Karl Queensborough, Ferdy Roberts, Cat Simmons and Francesca Zoutewelle. Yet while each performance is an utter delight, with the cast not mic’d up projection is an issue throughout and much gets frequently lost, which detracts from what is an otherwise brilliant production.
In their insane and inimitable fashion, Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre have done more to honour Shakespeare, his work and his spirit with their irreverent ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ than many other productions commemorating the 400th anniversary of his death. Wild and reckless and unapologetically enjoyable, it’s the perfect introduction and a refreshing reimagining. One you’ll want to rush out and tell everyone about. Want to bring your friends to. Want to go see again. So what are you waiting for?
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre runs at The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre as part of The Dublin Theatre Festival until October 1st.