Instead of a magical wood visually — it’s probably true that we’ve seen a lot of sparkly sets in Dream productions — there’s a tongue-in-cheek take on the magical. Here, delicate dew drops sprinkled in lovers’ eyes becomes slapstick paint spattered all over lovers’ faces. Oberon, who normally takes himself very seriously, is a superhero in white spandex like a geeky, overgrown milky bar kid. You can see why children will love it (and why it’s for 11+ ages).
The play is chock full of songs and rather than skimming over them or tittering embarrassedly through them (remember the English lessons, reading round the class?) they embrace them to the full. From Bottom’s ‘shivery shocks’ solo (an infectious doo-wap number) to speeches turned into songs, it means the balance of beautiful poetry and playfulness is perfectly weighted. One of the highlights is Lysander (John Lightbody) turning insincere, gushing lovers’ lines into an 80s pop ballad making perfect sense of the obviously rhyming, chiming couplets.
There are experimental and brilliant takes on the self-conscious references to acting and rehearsing in the play within the play. A squeaky fairy voice is revealed as Hermia, acting as a sound artist in her recording studio, then Oberon and Puck sit back in armchairs like Men Behaving Badly actors, swigging from beer cans as they enjoy the fray they’ve created. Even a stage hand has a part in the performance, wandering on in her mic. It’s surprising and entertaining in equal measure.
Essentially, this Dream is a whirlwind of fun and entertainment and offers a genuinely new and surprising interpretation of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare has never been so funny.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at the Lyric Hammersmith until Saturday 17 March. Tickets from £12.50.