What a dark and deviant ‘Dream’ Joe Hill-Gibbons has created.
Now, before I dive into the differences of this Dream, I want to sink into the set; much like the cast did. The whole stage is covered in mud, think Glastonbury, but without the LSD. Although on second thoughts, due to the darkness of the plot, perhaps keep the drugs.
So what did the mud add, apart from mess?
From a practical point of view, it places the characters in a wood, but more than that, it adds a dark and destitute feeling which hales from Titania’s lament of their broken world. It also changes the movement of the actors completely, as we all know, walking, dancing, running and fornicating on mud, is an entirely different feet.
This alternate universe where things are never quite what you remembered, is exaggerated by the fact that there is a mirrored wall at the back of the stage giving a ‘Through the Looking Glass’ feel.
The scene is set for a wickedly warped world – on to the big question, who says a comedy should be played for laughs?
Now I’d like to say here, its not that I didn’t laugh, because I did but perhaps not as much as I’d expect to when watching a ‘Dream’. There were areas of silence, anguish and disgust leaving the audience realising quite how twisted the play is when you stop playing for laughs.
It’s no longer funny when Lysandra tries to rape Hermia, nor when Demetrius threatens to kill Helena. In this play, misogyny cannot hide behind humour.
The cast were phenomenal. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to take this well known comedy and play it straight. Top of the merit list was Leo Bill, who’s ‘Bottom’ was grotesquely enchanting and provided much of the laughter along with the rest of the mechanicals, who completely stole the show. Also exceptional was Lloyd Hutchinson’s ‘Puck’. Anything but spritely, he ambles around the stage with a sarcastic slobbish swagger, oozing bitterness.
For this ‘Dream’ you’ll want to take everything you were taught, every other production you ever saw, every preconception you had, and throw it in the bin. Then walk into the theatre and prepare for a re-education.
There will be those who feel the poetry is not there, that the lack of humour combined with the 2 hour straight run leads to a lapse at times. But I disagree, I’m very much in the ‘shaking up Shakespeare’ camp, and this play definitely does that.
The show is on until the 1st of April and you can buy tickets here. If you are under 25, then I thoroughly recommend one of the 25 and under tickets which are just £10.
As you can see from my picture above, the chance is you’ll get one of the best seats in the house. I had a scan of the surroundings and found no bad seat, leaving you little excuse not to enter into the dark and deviant ‘Dream’.