Monday, 26 August 2013

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play Review
By Grace O’Reilly

Last week my husband and I went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester City. 
Founded in 1976, The Royal Exchange Theatre building is Victorian and brightly decorated inside.  It is reported to be extremely haunted and was on a television show called Most Haunted.  The main theatre itself is made of glass and metal in an octagonal shape, with seating on the ground floor and two additional levels, a stage shaped like a catwalk and various abstract objects in front.
 The play itself was written by William Shakepeare, the exact date of publication is unknown much like the main body of Shakespeare’s work.  The premise of the play is about an argument between Oberon the King of Fairies and his estranged Queen Titania over possession of a fairy child.  Oberon wishes to raise the child as a henchman while Titania wishes to raise the child as a follower in honour of the child’s mother who was also her follower.  Meanwhile, two Grecian mortals named Lysander and Hermia seek to elope as Hermia is bethrothed to a man named Demetrius whom she doesn’t love.  Demetrius is in turn being persued by Helena who harbours an unrequited love for him and a simmering jealousy of Hermia.  These four and a man named Nick Bottom are caught up in the schemes of Oberon and his servant the mischievous Puck.
In addition this rendition performed by A Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre, contained a play within a play and was also ad-libbed by some of the cast.  It was done purposely as a comedy.
Costumes were modern and not the ancient Greek clothing you would expect.  Oberon wore a blue superhero costume with a giant capital O in silver.  Titania wore a black lacey dress with ankle boots. The Athenians wore very casual modern clothing.  Bottom wore a fat suit and Puck dressed as a stage hand signifying his character always being in the background.
Acting was good for this sort of play.  The cast took their cues perfectly and spent a great deal of time interacting with their audience which is important to this particular play.  The interaction of the cast with the audience included the actor playing Bottom being sat in the audience at the start and then coming onto the stage after a clever ploy by the narrator.  It also included a food fight where I actually got hit by a flying bread roll.  My husband thought it was hilarious. 
Other unique acting props included a tube of blue paint, it was a plot device. Another prop was a working shower in front of the stage.  One of the actors was also the musician for the play and they also used a girl dressed in The Royal Exchange Theatre uniform.  The actors al delivered their lines well.  My favourite character was Oberon as he is quite a divided character, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes not.  The actor playing him displayed this well.  One section in the middle featuring a duel between Lysander and Demetrius was conveyed as a computer game played by Puck.
The lighting for the play was done using extensive equipment co-ordinated from a control stationed on the second level in the theatre.  Lighting in this play was relatively simple, it depended on mood.  Dimmer lights for sombre moods and brighter lights for brighter moods.

The music was performed live on the stage using two of the cast.  One who played the keyboard and synthesisers and one on the drums and guitar.   All of the actors sang as part of the finalé.

The audience was jam packed and the atmosphere was good.  I am glad that I went to see this and recommend this to anyone interested in all sorts of drama.  This was not your usual bog standard Shakespearian play for several reasons already mentioned, the costumes, style of acting and ploys used such as the foodfight, paint throwing and computer game duel.  However I enjoyed the play nonetheless and it was certainly lively and very entertaining.  The prices were on the pricey side £30 per ticket but the show did go on for 2 and a half hours with no interval.