Goodness, has director Chelsea Walker ended up with a talented cast. This eclectic mix of Oxford stars is probably worth the ticket price alone: James Corrigan, of The Odyssey fame, this time swaggering as the profligate Demetrius; fellow Somervillian Lindsay Dukes as the hot-tempered Hermia; James Carroll (of Rent), Alex Khosla (Blood Wedding) and Ollo Clark (The Magic Toyshop) make up only a few of this all-star, eight man cast.
The Dream has been four days in the making, and already you can see how much it is pulling together as a piece. Fresh out of finals, the cast don’t seem to be feeling the strain of day-long rehearsals.
To call this an ‘adaptation’ of Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is misleading. What Walker has actually done is to rearrange and abridge Shakespeare’s epic play into a much more palatable hour-long performance, to fit the Burton Taylor’s late slot. She has also set it in a rubbish dump.
A strange choice, perhaps, but one that Walker insists “will bring out a more sinister side to the fairies. You just wouldn’t get that with a pastoral setting.”
In all honesty, there was very little of the ‘more sinister side’ in this production. This has the makings of a fun summer performance of a classic piece: sexy, funny, and well acted, The Dream offers not so much a twist on the original, as an enjoyable retelling.
Best of all, the characters actually enjoy what they’re doing. Some of the more classic insults (“you painted maypole!”, “rash wanton!”) were thrown around with spirited anger. The play fighting was fun and frequent – there was hardly a moment when one of the characters was not hair-tugging and pinning another to the floor. I felt like a little child on the sidelines, wanting to join the fun.
One almost wishes this was to be an outdoors performance: glass of Pimm’s and a sunlit lawn would complete the gay, frolicy feel of this piece.
Nonetheless, The Dream will do very nicely in the round. Ollo Clark gave a particularly subtle, glowering performance as Puck – something that would be entirely lost on a larger stage. The interplay between characters is going to suit the intimate feel of the Burton Taylor.
With just a little more polishing will really light up seventh week drama. I can’t sell it as particularly innovative or unusual piece – it’s not. What The Dream is, is good theatre. And if the idea of James Corrigan being used as a footstool by Puck doesn’t tickle your fancy, this clearly isn’t your production.