A dreamful of laughter

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

IN the hands of Propeller, Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is simply bewitching. We’re in Athens, in a dusty and forlorn attic, seemingly strewn with forgotten toys, in sepia tint, which come to life to tell the story with Propeller’s trademark rich and adventurous variety of music.

The set is knitted also in a sepia tint with ‘Wot, no nails’ adhering random chairs to the wall at just above head height, used to great effect. In the centre, a pair of balletic legs in green and red striped tights poke upside down out of a magic box. A tinkly music-box tune introduces mischievous Puck (Joseph Chance).

The pace is cracking, the poetry comes through, and as ever with Propeller, there is humour in abundance as well as the story well told. Four stories knit together, three pairs of lovers and an argumentative King and Queen of the Fairies, plus the ‘rude’ mechanicals.

Duke of Athens Theseus (Dominic Gerrard) and Hippolyta (Will Featherstone) are due to marry. For the feast, the Mechanicals are rehearsing in the forest a ‘tedious brief play’ about Pyramus and Thisbe. Puck, for a laugh, turns Bottom the Weaver (Chris Myles), playing Pyramus into a donkey complete with teeth, ears and rather resplendent appendage, if you get my drift…

Egeus (David Acton) wants Demetrius (Arthur Wilson) to marry his daughter Hermia (Matthew McPherson) but she prefers Lysander (Richard Pepper). If she refuses it’s either the nunnery or death.

She and Lysander plan to elope to the forest. Helena (Dan Wheeler) tells Demetrius about the plot who sets off in hot pursuit with Helena in tow.

Fairy King Oberon (Darrell Brockis) and Queen Titania (James Tucker) are arguing and Puck’s brief is to anoint Titania with a herb that will make her fall in love with the first beast she sees – and it’s a donkey.

He also anoints Lysander to cause considerable confusion among the Athenian couples which eventually sorts to everyone’s satisfaction.

Under Edward Hall’s direction there are many moments of pure magic, Helena and Hermia’s catfight is brilliant; very physical and very funny. As for the Mechanicals, I have never seen this play within a play done with more hilarity. If I have a criticism, it’s all just far too short. Go, it’s well worth it. In repertory with A Comedy of Errors To 15-02-14.

Jane Howard 

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