Review: RSC: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, New Theatre

Review by George Caulton

Combining amateur theatre companies alongside professional theatre companies is something very rarely seen in the world of theatre. Undeniably, it has been done before- but performing Shakespeare and conveying the complexity of the language- in an understandable way to a contemporary audience- is a skill that is typically upheld with highly trained performers. Despite this, the RSC and the Everyman theatre company combined together to create a spectacular rendition of Shakespeare’s legendary comedy, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Holding the sub- title of ‘A play for the nation’, director Erica Whyman clearly demonstrated that the boundary between professional and amateur dramatics are really not that dissimilar, adding credibility to the performances given by the Everyman theatre company.

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 The show follows the renound story of three different worlds: the world of the lovers; the world of the fairies and the world of the Court. ‘A Midsummers Night’s Dream’ combines comedy, tragedy and themes surrounding confused identity, love triangles and fantasy. Throughout the play, themes of organised marriage, patriarchy, confusion of love and identity pervade the stage. Yet rather interestingly, Shakespeare’s language can be seen as presentist, as several themes explored within the play mirror the contemporary 21st century emphasising the universality of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

While the cast, musical accompaniment and production were all flawless, there were indefinitely some stand out performances from particular members of the cast. The stand out performance of the evening was undeniably Helena, played by Laura Riseborough. Her chatty, high humoured pace and witty cat- fight with Hermia, confidently played by Mercy Ojelade, provided a highly comic atmosphere within the walls of the New Theatre. The Mechanicals also impressed with their bursts of tasteful comedy within “The Most Lamentable Comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe’. The fusion of linguistic genius, followed by an outstanding actor was clearly evidenced by Steven Smith, playing the character of Bottom. Whilst the characterisation was played upon effectively, I feel if more time was given into considering the complex language, then some of the puns and innuendos would have been acted upon and made more obvious to a more modern audience.

Special notice should also go to the children of Rumney Primary School for bringing their enthusiasm and energy into this fantastic performance.