This week's National Theatre At Home treat was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I must admit I was a little confused by the futuristic Handmaid's Tale-esque opening scenes and checked I was watching the right show. Familiar names and lines soon came and I easily fell into the world I was watching.
Nicholas Hytner’s adaptation is immersive and magical with floating beds and dangling fairies. The stages dotted throughout the audience allow for wonderful breaking of the fourth wall which adds another enjoyable layer to this gorgeous production.
I’m afraid if you’re a Shakespeare purist this isn’t the one for you; the extra ad-libs to the script were a welcomed addition and brought so much humour to the piece. This production seamlessly merges the traditional with the modern day including references of The Lion King, music from Dizzee Rascal and the borrowing of an iPhone. Sounds bizarre, works wonderfully.
Moments of power and passion are aplenty, with King Oberon and Queen Titania’s exchanges being particularly captivating as Gwendoline Christie and Oliver Chris brought endless energy and power to the stage.
In a wonderful change to the plot, it is King Oberon who falls for Bottom as he is transformed into a donkey, rather than Queen Titania. This creates a comedic scene which keeps the audience laughing after every line, as well as having the gender fluidity and sexual spectrum bringing the play more up to date.
As the most serious character in the story, Oberon’s obsession with the mule works so well as a twist to the original plot, as well as giving us a Beyonce number that I will never forget!
Puck’s pesky behaviour doesn’t stop there and he gets up to much more mischief than in the original, with the young lovers swapping back and forth with partners. David Moorst’s punky and funky-looking fairy comes with every twitch and trick in the book, even learning circus skills specifically for the role.
All the cast is strong but the aforementioned along with Hammed Animashaun as an innocent and vulnerable Bottom the Weaver are exceptional. Aniamashaun has many scene-stealing lines including when he bats away his desperate Oberon with a sleepy “Babe, babe, not now. I’ve got a headache.” I could watch him all day in this engaging character which he fits wonderfully into.
Hytner’s version of the Shakespeare classic toys with the playful text, enhancing comedic moments by bringing the old and new together. Team this with some ingenious staging and acrobatic skills and this production transports the audience into a world of magic, which is exactly what I think A Midsummer’s Night Dream should do.