Sunday, November 12, 2006

Theatre Review : A Midsummer Night's Dream - Open Air Theatre Regent's Park (dir Ian Talbot 15/08/06)

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park is always one of the highlights of the summer. As dusk falls, the tree-lined bowl is transformed (translated?) into a place of magic and wonder. Ian Talbot's production revisits that of 2004, itself no bad thing, as it is a magical production perfectly suited to the venue. As Oberon casts his spells, the trees quiver. The lovers fight their way through the trees at the sides of the stage.

The fairies were like street urchins, bald and a trifle threatening, gathering and scattering like a flock of sparrows at a clap of Titania's hand. Puck, however, looked too menacing for a "mischievous sprite" and that took the edge off the way he came over.

The physicality of the lovers as they fought was noteworthy, choreographed beautifully. Summer Strallen as Helena was particularly striking in the slapstick scenes, her mannerisms perfect, her timing spot on. It is rare to find a female actor who can do physical comedy so well, and it was intriguing to note in the programme that her background was in musicals not classical acting. The timing taught in dance routines has served her very well.

As always, the Rude Mechanicals stole the show, John Hodgkinson being a strong, demanding Bottom - ideally suited to a full-blown Ass's head. Whist Pyramus and Thisbe did not reduce the audience to paroxysms of laughter as they have done in the past - it was quite a flat audience - it was still played with wit and invention.

Yet, audience notwithstanding, as darkness drew in, the magic spell was once again cast. The weather was fair, the stars were in the sky, the trees were rustling and the Dream had once again come alive at Regent's Park. It really doesn't get much better than this.

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