Globe Player, Shakespeare's Globe, London

07/05/2020 - 31/05/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

‘Rock the ground’ 

Fusing music, dance and some serious comedy, Emma Rice’s first production as Artistic Director brings the Dream crashing into the Globe’s magical setting. Naughty, tender, transgressive and surprising, it promises to be a festival of theatre. Let the joy begin!

My! The woods outside Athens are a busy place on this magical night! Four runaway lovers find themselves smack bang in the middle of a dispute between the King and Queen of the fairies, and, as if that wasn’t enough, a troupe of amateur actors are trying to rehearse a play. Between these unlikely groups flies Puck, armed only with a wicked sense of humour and a love potion capable of making anyone fall for the first person they set eyes upon. What could possibly go wrong?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Globe Player
Rent or buy

Running time: 172 mins

Director:  Emma Rice 
Dramaturg & Lyricist:  Tanika Gupta 
Set Designer:  Börkur Jónsson
Costume Designer:  Moritz Junge 
Composer:  Stu Barker 
Choreography:  Etta Murfitt & Emma Rice 
Sound Designer:  Simon Baker 
Lighting Designers:  Victoria Brennan & Malcolm Rippeth

Fairy: Tibu Fortes
Snug: Edith Tankus
Quince: Lucy Thackeray
Snout: Alex Tregear
Theseus/Oberon: Zubin Varla
Hermia: Anjana Vasan
Helenus: Ankur Bahl
Flute/Philostrate: Maggie Bain
First Fairy/Starveling: Nandi Bhebhe
Lysander: Edmund Derrington
Demetrius: Ncuti Gatwa
Hippolyta/Titania: Meow Meow
Egeus/Puck: Katy Owen
Bottom: Ewan Wardrop 

Webcast , Theatre ,

2 hrs 52 mins

As physical as it’s verbal and easy to follow

Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 08th May 2020

A Midsummer Nights Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies. And like all his plays, it can be a little complex at first glance.

At the opening of the play – as the controlling Theseus, Duke of Athens (Zubin Varla), anticipates his wedding with the Amazonian queen Hippolyta (Meow Meow), defeated in battle and now his betrothed – we find our two pairs of young lovers in trouble.

Hermia (Anjana Vasan) and Lysander (Edmund Derrington) are in love, but Egeus, Hermia’s wheelchair-bound mother in this production (Katy Owen) wants her to marry Demetrius (Ncuti Gatwa). However Helenus (Ankur Bahl), Hermia’s friend, is in love with Demetrius.  

The gender switch from Helena to Helenus is brilliant. Ankur plays the part superbly, adding a memorable dimension to Demetrius’s rejection of him. When the Duke insists Hermia must marry Demetrius with a month or become a nun or die, the lovers make a pact to elope through the forest, with Helenus and Demetrius following after them.

In this version the wannabe actors who plan to perform a play for the Duke’s wedding turn out to be the Globe’s front of house staff, who have prefaced the show with comical housekeeping announcements. Quince (Lucy Thackeray) rounds up her troupe: Bottom (Ewan Wardrop), Flute (Margaret Ann Bain), Snug (Edith Tankus), Snout (Alex Tregear) and Starveling (Nandi Bhebhe). They agree to meet in the forest to rehearse that night.

Meanwhile Puck (a suddenly nimble and raunchy Katy Owen) and Fairy (Tibu Fortes) introduce us to the forest with a show-stopping song and dance number accompanied by a full chorus of Fairies (played by the transformed wannabe actors).

Oberon, King of the fairies (a drink-swigging Zubin Varla) is fighting over a changeling boy with his Queen Titania (Meow Meow, in full control now). In the spirit of spite Oberson summons Puck to bring him the juice of a flower that can make the person fall in love with the first person (or beast) they see. Both the wannabe actors and the Athenian lovers crash the fairy party and mischief and chaos reign, resulting in Bottom getting his head turned into a donkey’s and attracting Titania’s heartfelt love. Puck’s attempts to get the lovers lover the right person go awry, however.

All the actors in this play are absolutely perfect, bringing a 400 year-old play to life before our eyes, from the lovers to the craziness that is Puck, and the regal bearing of Titania. The comedy is as often as physical as it is verbal, and the complex story line is easy to follow.

The costuming (Moritz Junge) deserves its own mention, starting out with the actors in modern clothing and, as we move to the realm of the fairies, adding Elizabethan elements. Puck wears a ruff and light up sneakers, while Titania and her fairies wear wide skirts that reveal the padding underneath (essentially Elizabethan underwear).

There is an edginess to the fairies; the director Emma Rice comments, in an interval interview, that the fairies are 400 years old – they have been to every party and tried everything. The fabrics are a little tattered, Oberon, in particular appears worn, his shirt rumpled and undone, with the overall air of someone trying to get home after a serious party. He is almost licentious with his mannerisms, and creates a beautiful foil to Titania’s burlesque sparkles. Puck’s on stage transition from fairy to Hermia’s wheelchair bound Mother adds another level, blurring the line between what is real and what isn’t.

An interesting addition to this production is the use of song, with several being added to the play. These, sung by the actors in a myriad of different styles, fit seamlessly into the play. Tanika Gupta, dramaturg and lyricist, has done such a good job that the songs feel like they belong in the play. Accompanied by the dancing chorus of fairies (choreography by Etta Murfitt and Emma Rice) they add to the festival feeling.

This production also draws heavily on Indian influences with its music (composed by Stu Barker, who also performs some of the music), creating a beautiful other-worldliness. Sheema Mukherjee’s sitar performance from her seat aloft, in full view of audience, deserves particular mention. The other musicians are Jeevan Singh and Pat Morgan, who is also the musical director for the play. The sound designer is Simon Baker; the lighting (designed by Victoria Brennan and Malcolm Rippeth) and set (designed Bӧrkur Jónsson) are simple, as befitting such a person- and costume-heavy play.

Performed live in 2016, this Dream was not only Emma Rice’s first production as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, but also the first play digitally recorded with multi-cam technology (as pioneered by National Theatre Live). It is long, at a touch under three hours (including the introduction and interval interview). But as it’s a rental, the viewer can take a break.

If watching with younger viewers please note there is a lot sexual innuendo (it is Shakespeare after all) and a little swearing.

It is available to rent or buy from the Globe Player website.


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