Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays are about madness, A Midsummer Night’s Dream deals with the lunacy of love. As the Bard has it, “Love and reason keep little company nowadays”. In a brilliant new production directed by Jimmy Fay that landed at the Lyric Theatre’s new outdoor theatre space this week, a kind of cultural fusion allowed the not always white magic – and madness - to take over. There was classy world music from Beyond Skin, an impressive parade, with dragon, ushered in the show, and bubbles were blown. You felt anything could happen. It was perhaps significant a lot of theatrical dry ice cast a hazy spell over proceedings.

An MC, actually Philostrate, kicked things off like a game show host. The contemporary touches worked well throughout. As Theseus condemns Hermia to life with the wrong chap, Demetrius, when she is obsessed with Lysander (Cillian Lenaghan), we understood the depth of her feeling. Jessica Reynolds was convincing here. They escape and the familiar tale of thwarted love unfolds. The spat between the women, with height references, was delightful. Helena (great Meghan Tyler) hankered after Demetrius (Ash Rizi) believably and underlined the sixteenth century view of relationships in her desire to just be treated as his dog. It was revealing modern sensibility surfaced at the end when Hermia and Helena had their Thelma and Louise moment by escaping the men and heading for a discarded car offstage.

Parallels abound and Titania and Oberon, spirited Leah Minto and majestic Sean Kerns, have their problems too. They stylishly acted out their dispute over the Arabian boy. The solution, but in fact the mischief, comes via Robin Goodfellow, fairy fixer aka Puck. He’s an id character, representing some of our baser instincts, and sped about in a striped suit transported to comic effect by a trendy scooter. Initially American sounding, reminiscent of Stanley Tucci in the 1999 film version, the outstanding Patrick McBrearty settled to something vocally more local, humorous. He held the play whenever he appeared.

The fairy characters were ably suggested by young members of Rogue Encounters and helped create that other world the play transports us to.

The comedy was superb. I’ve never found the rude mechanicals that entertaining but they were last night. Jo Donnelly’s Peter Quince was a tour de force as the put upon director surrounded by a cast of well-meaning amateurs. Even the Wall (Neil Keery) was a star turn. Steven Calvert as Bottom was superb and did doughty work as Pyramus too, dying repeatedly and with conviction. His Thisbe, Mr Flute, played with gusto by Cailum Callagher, actually had one of the most touching and genuine romantic moments in the play when she found her dead swain and dazed, repeats her disbelief.

By the end, we were star struck, finding this unique take on the 1594 drama beguiling. There was a torrential downpour but rain happily didn’t stop play. And the mortals hadn’t offended at all, just acted their socks off. This Dream redefined the play for today as part of the Belfast 2024 initiative and should be revived soon.

Jane Hardy

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