Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
It is one thing to remember how funny a show an be, it is another to bear witness to a production that goes one better and every enunciation, tumble and action is comic perfection. In this production of Shakespeare’s farcical fairy tale every comic nuance possible is put to work, creating a hilarious, adventurous and magical performance. Theatre Mwldan and Mappa Mundi have revisited a partnership with Torch Theatre for this production, an enterprise that has again worked wonders.
Transported from ancient wooded Athens to 1940’s Britain, this Midsummer Night’s Dream is a new commentary on changing times where love wins out over stubborn class divides as Lysander –transformed into an American – fights for Hermia with the now straight laced, Englishman Demetrius. Air raid sirens sound and silent films play, setting the scene before the cast launch into the text – dressed as the soldiers, land girls, wardens and the glamorous upper class.
The plebeians of St Athans Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (SAADOS) are the perfect comic bumbling relief to Oberon and Titania’s dark, sinister fairyland where unrequited love and false chivalry abound as the human’s fall victim to Puck’s shambolic meddling. Their inexplicable rendition of Pyramus and Thisbe making the perfect comic mockery of amateur theatre Liam Tobin’s Bottom and James Peake’s Flute stumble over lines, over act the scenes and produce ridiculous prop’s – Llinos Mae’s Snout suffers as the SAADOs rendition of the ill-fated wall. Mathew Bulgo’s plays Quince, forever attempting to improve his amateur actors and forever failing – only to give up in complete irritation.
With such a sizable but incredible talented ensemble cast it is difficult to pick the shining star: they all shone. Yet Joanna Simpkins was truly impressive as Helena: heartbroken and desperate her pursuit of Demetrius plays out with such physicality the audience is at once with her in sympathy and laughing at the hilarity if it and it starts again as the roles reverse and she is pursued by both Demetrius and Lysander after Puck’s meddling. Francois Pandolfo as Puck is simultaneously menacing and enticing – flitting about the stage he is the willing villain of Oberon’s jealous plan and his appearance amongst the audience adds to the dreamlike quality of the show, becoming the dream’s storyteller.
A remarkably simple set works well with the lighting, enhancing the dark, dreamy world. Multi-media use at the beginning and end: delivering Puck’s final lines is eerie and perfectly placed to close down the dream and let the dreaming audience awaken.
A Midsummer Nights Dream is on tour until 8th December.