Friday, February 25, 2011


Headlong Theatre and the Nuffield Southampton, in association with Hull Truck at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

The Hollywood “Dream” is not a new idea. Shakespeare's Globe tour a year or two back had Quince and Bottom in the Directors' Chairs. This time, in a brilliantly sustained conceit, it's Robin P Goodfellow, mischievously manipulating the mortals in an affectionate look at the star-studded Sixties in tinsel town.

Athens is a painted backdrop, and also the name of the production company. The mechanicals, shorn of their traditional trades, are the crew, and Oberon and Titania [doubling, as so often, Theseus and Hippolyta] were gods of the silver screen, cheekily channelling the great Burton and Taylor.

Natalie Abrahami's production was crammed with clever touches – the clapper-board cranny, the child-like fairies and the Red Indian Boy, the cable wood, and especially the music – Casta Diva on the Dansette, On the Roof and A Summer Place for Titania's backstage bower. Thanks to some ingenious video, we actually saw the main title, and some revealing rushes and out-takes.

A near faultless cast of ten covered all the characters, though poor old Quince [David Shaw-Parker] had to be the voice of Wall, Moon and Lion in Pyramus and Thisbe, since Starveling [Wardrobe Assistant] and the rest were nowhere to be seen. The result was predictably hilarious, with Michael Dylan's Flute a splendid Thisbe - “How will I live ?” she ad libs, stealing Hippolyta's line from lost blockbuster “Where The Wild Thyme Blows”. Christopher Logan was a memorable Bottom, flouncing and slightly fey, with more than a hint of dark depths below the surface.

The lovers were given wonderful fights and chases, even a balcony scene – Faye Castelow especially fine as a feisty Hermia. Justin Avoth's Oberon was beautifully spoken – elsewhere the approximate accents were sometimes a distraction. Not so for Sandy Grierson's superb Puck. Perched on his chair, with notebook and pipe [lots of smoking in this show], he seemed to be planning his mischief, and his cynical, caustic comments caught the mood exactly.

There was no shortage of magic, mayhem or mirth in this two-hour comedy. Even the fairies, with their cowboy outfits, were strangely effective. But, as the commendably informative programme points out, the play is on the National Curriculum, and the half-term matinĂ©e I saw was well attended by students of all ages. And I did wonder if this imaginative interpretation, “more strange than true” perhaps, might be a tad confusing for first-time wanderers in the wood near Athens.

Photos: Keith Pattison

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was fun, but I agree the american accents got in the way of the diction.

I liked the hollywood idea, and just wish more use had been made of it.

Bottom was excellent, and brought much humour.

The transition from the hollywood set to the fairy woods wasnt handled well, and didnt relate to the hollywood / athen theme, but it was so much fun, and so well acted, it didnt matter too much if the direction was a bit woolly.

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