A Midsummer Night's Dream

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Nick Bagnall
Liverpool Everyman
Till 18th April 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Photograph by Gary Calton

In a similar way of sorts to Macbeth, performed at the Everyman in February, this is a highly unconventional adaptation of one of Shakespeare's best known works. As I commented about that version of The Scottish play, A Midsummer's Night Dream, directed by Everyman associate director Nick Bagnall, bears little resemblance to the more traditional way of staging it, and that is for the best.

What is striking about this version is the impressive cast on view, notably four outstanding young actors: Charlotte Hope (Hermia) and Emma Curtis (Helena), both taking part in their first professional performance, along with Tom Varey (Lysander) and Matt Whitchurch (Demetrius) - both recent graduates from RADA.

The characters they play squabble, bitch, pontificate, are lovesick, lovelorn, have tantrums, and are passionate in different ways within the forest setting. Love and desire are always to the fore.

One of the veteran actors, Garry Cooper, is charismatic in the role of Oberon (pictured - photo credit: Gary Calton), the Fairy King, the invisible presence or spirit who observes what is taking place before him. He is a menacing presence throughout.

He also excels playing the part of Theseus, the King of Athens, He, along with his bride Hippolita (Sharon Duncan Brewster), are 'treated' to a performance by a band of Athenian craftsmen, who earlier in the play had been rehearsing what they were going to enact, not entirely according to plan. Called Rude Mechanicals, they were all dressed in orange boiler suits, and led by Quince (Andrew Schofield).

Among their troupe was Bottom (Dean Nolan), showing great athleticism for such a heavily built man, who, at one point did the splits, which almost made my eyes water!

The forest is represented as a huge mass of white paper strewn at the back of the stage, which is a major feature almost throughout. the production. similar to a multitude of fallen leaves. The heaps of paper serves to hide trapdoors and people.

Mirrors, stretching from floor to ceiling, on the back wall, help to add extra weight to what is taking place before them, giving a multi-dimensional feel to the characters and their actions.

Unfortunately the live music, some of it performed by guys dressed in black from head to toe, looking like they were members of ISIS , added little to the impact of the play.

However, the recorded ambient music, composed and arranged by James Fortune, gives impetus to the strangeness of the production. It is almost inaudible, like a humming sound, but proves effective in giving an extra edge or frisson, to the often madcap antics taking place.

After leaving the Everyman I reflected - those mirrors acting up again! - what a pleasure it had been to step away from 'real life' into a magical and surreal setting, if only for three hours.

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