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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Published 6 May 2016

What’s it all about?

You know the drill: four young requited and not so requited lovers, one magical forest, a whole gang of mysterious fairies and a group of amateur actors preparing for the show of their lives.

Warm hearted, hilarious, romantic and ethereal, this is the classic Shakespeare play to kick off a summer season but, as one actor shouts in frustration: “Why are we all so obsessed with text?” Well, new Shakespeare’s Globe Artistic Director Emma Rice certainly isn’t and her first production makes her intentions perfectly clear – it’s even lit up above the stage in fluorescent lights – she’s here to rock the ground. And rock it she does.

Gender swapping, Beyoncé booty shaking, eunuchs on roller skates, David Bowie tributes and Hoxton hipsters replacing Greek aristocrats; Toto I don’t think we’re in Athens anymore…

Who’s in it?

Girls can be boys in this raucous offering, with an endearingly flustered Ankur Bahl transforming Helena to Helanus, and boys can boys as Sunny Afternoon’s Edmund Derrington swaps rock for indie as a hilariously melodramatic Lysander and Ncuti Gatwa brings hipster swagger as his love rival Demitius. As the girl who mysteriously finds her betrothed unable to stop grinding Helanus is Anjana Vasan, who drags Hermia into the 21st century as a sexually frustrated fashionista with a knack for pouting and Hunter wellies on stand by for her forest elopement.

These four make you ache to be teenagers in love. They exude youthful lust. Their folk indie duets – yes, this is a very musical version – are tender, in pleasingly emo fashion, and their moves are only beaten by the fairies awaiting them in the forest who can twerk with the best of them.

All twerking is overseen by Meow Meow who gives Titania Queen of the Fairies a burlesque Disney princess makeover, all glitter and sequins; flanked by her Tim Burton-inspired troupe of broken ragdoll fairies with nipple tassels. Obviously.

What should I look out for?

Rice’s clever reinvention of the acting troupe who get entangled in the magical events. Here they become Globe ushers, with Quince a bossy boots Mrs Merton lookalike and the fateful Bottom an irritating know-it-all Health & Safety officer. As with the gender swapping, it adds new meaning to the Bard’s lines, offers plenty of opportunities for Globe in-jokes – wait for an appearance from Mark Rylance’s tambourine – and hilarious double meanings.

Katy Owen as Puck. Her lithe, spritely, naughty and flawless performance is a show stealer.

In a nutshell?

It may be 400 years since Shakespeare’s death but his spirit has never been more alive. Emma’s Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream rocks.

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Will I like it?

Purists beware, this is a bold, inventive and refreshingly unfaithful take on Shakespeare so might not be for you. But if you’re not afraid of change, you will love it all the more for its raucous, festival spirit. From the vitality, energy and captivating bonkerness on show last night, we predict exciting times are ahead… Go on, shake it up with Rice; you – and the Globe – are in safe hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing until 11 September. You can book tickets through the Shakespeare’s Globe website.


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