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Whoever said the bard was boring?

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date online: 27 February 2014

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Lowry, Salford, to Saturday

IT is sometimes disconcerting to watch something that seems new to you, only to find out later that you have seen it not once but twice before.

To be fair (to me), the previous times were in 2009 and 2003, but I would argue that Propeller’s magnificent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream perfectly demonstrates a point. Which is that the show is at the same time quite brilliant but, like the play itself, a trifle; something to love while you are watching it but which, as Shakespeare says of the play, passes like a dream, forgotten at its close.

Well, that’s the line I’m spinning to cover my rotten memory, anyway.

But the fact remains that Edward Hall’s all-male company currently has perhaps the best version of this play to be seen anywhere.

Seemingly simple and ephemeral, there’s a ton of comic detail within, from the harmonicas and glockenspiels for sound effects, to the singing, the simple white knitted-look set and the odd row of white-painted chairs slung half way up the back of the set as a sort of walk-way across the stage.

The costumes are clownish – especially for Puck and the fairies; or ribald (as for the donkey Bottom) or silly, as for the lion with his mop-head mane.

To be honest, while the costumes, sets and white-painted faces are distractingly interesting, they pale into the background against the onslaught of words, often delivered at a pace so furious, with angered wrestling so funny, that the make-up starts to run.

The 14-strong male cast is uniformly excellent – either playing men or women – and the production remains one of the most enjoyable nights out watching Shakespeare you could have.

Well, except for the performance of Comedy of Errors playing on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, for that is if anything even more fun – and both productions are wonderful counters to the idea that Shakespeare is boring.

 

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