A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe, London – review

“I am a spirit of no common rate,” Titania tells Bottom. “The summer still doth tend upon my state”. . . which isn’t, this year, much of a testimony to her status. At least she is clothed above the waist, unlike Oberon and Puck; in the chill of last week’s press night, one wondered whether John Light and Matthew Tennyson would survive this outdoor season in full health.

Dominic Dromgoole’s production is a consistently vigorous one. This is sometimes a success, playing as it does to the exuberance of the usual Globe audience, but on other occasions it is excessive even by those standards; the Dream is hardly Shakespeare’s most subtle play, but it doesn’t just blare the whole time. Michelle Terry is attractively obdurate as Hippolyta, clearly not consenting to her marriage to Theseus (we even see the battle with her Amazons as a prologue), but in her other role as Titania she is called upon to be too strident: “We shall chide downright if I longer stay,” she tells her attendant fairies, making one wonder what she has been doing for the past several minutes. Tennyson’s Puck is an arch, self-regarding adolescent, which explains his absence of sympathy for what fools these mortals be but does not entice us to join in his scorn.

The four young lovers do the requisite business, with Luke Thompson standing out as an amusingly blithe and callow Lysander, whether trying to cajole his way to a sleeping spot next to Hermia or, later when bewitched, disavowing her in favour of Helena.

Inevitably, though, any production stands (or rather sits) or falls upon its Bottom. Pearce Quigley is a natural, and more striking here because his comparatively calm deadpan manner is at odds with the rest of the staging. This Bottom does not galumph through his scenes (although the rude mechanicals’ characterisation as clog-wearing Lancastrians bears fruit when Bottom’s clogs become donkey’s hooves); he stands upon his own dignity, whether he is preventing a fairy from leaving with a string of limp jokes or, conversely, taking a prompt for every single word during the play he has earlier called the tragedy of Pyramus and Thingy. Dromgoole and his cast kept much of the unseasonal chill off us; I hope they likewise keep it off themselves.


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