[reviewed for The Public Reviews]
Trestle and Moon Fool at the Mercury Theatre Studio Colchester
A magical hour – almost fairy time – in the company of Trestle and Ill Met By Moonlight, a surreal re-imagining of Shakespeare's Dream.
In a dark, warm, misty space, we find Peter Swaffer-Reynolds' merry wanderer of the night. Think Mr Bean meets Woody Allen. He's muttering about rope, the crow's-nest, suitcases of memory. In one such suitcase, he shows us, is a dead garden; it's later to bloom …
He half-remembers Quince's prologue, and we're into the play proper, with the arrival of the actors: Christopher Sivertsen as jealous Oberon, and Anna-Helena McLean as proud Titania, given to playing a moody cello, for all the world like Lady Jane in Patience.
The piece is shot through with the most wonderfully atmospheric original music – not just the tongs and the bones, but a plaintive accordeon, a keyboard, a big drum doubling as full moon, and a strident sax, with which Puck transforms Oberon into an ass, the “vile thing” with which Titania falls in love. His spell whips them into a very physical frenzy, but there are no hairy ears here, just the grubby vest which is now almost de rigueur for any Bottom.
“Ill Met” is a lounge number delivered by Ol' Blue Eyes, “I know a bank” a love duet.
The actors are lithe, flexible - I liked their musical panting, and the billowing red sails for the Imperial Votress sequence. The set, with its red drapes and its deep well/tomb, suits the tiny space of the studio. The lighting – lateral, with a nice cross-beam effect – enhances the dreamy atmosphere. Shakespeare's verse is respected, mostly, and well served. But I'm not sure how successful the concept would be for an audience innocent of the original. Is it like a jazz re-working of an old standard, where the melody lingers as a shadow ? Or more like Stoppard's takes on Shakespeare, where at least some textual knowledge is helpful ? The small audience is full of enthusiasm as we file out to mingle with the Romeo and Juliet interval from the Mercury Main House.
The fairy king and queen are re-united, the lovely Indian Boy is dead, and our nerdy companion Robin Goodfellow collects Oberon's discarded shirt, and turns back to us once more as the lights die. And it's over all too soon – swifter than the wind, swifter than the wandering moon ...
this review first appeared on The Public Reviews