FRINGE REVIEW – A Midsummer Night’s Madness, C


4-30 Aug (not 16, 21) 1700 (1815) @ C, Chambers Street

By Danielle Farrow

Even as the audience are seated, the show is building: the ‘unreachable’ and ‘unteachable’ interact with each other, with the audience and with whatever fantasy is being played out in their heads: these are the ‘invisibles‘, the equivalent of Shakespeare‘s fairies. The interaction is real, including some inspired improvisation, and the feel becomes electric, before a brilliant opening musical section with a fantastic vibe introduces the story and starts to bring in the characters.
The Hackney Harlem Theatre Company of young actor-musicians delivers this hip-hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s Dream with joyous energy. To get quibbles out of the way first: along with just a couple of actors, the adapted text is a little uneven. It seems as if there may have been different writers involved, and certain speeches – mostly Hermia’s – contain contrived, over-fancy modern language thankfully not in evidence elsewhere. Actually, the up side of this is that when Shakespeare’s text is used, being well-chosen, it is far clearer!
Now, just some of the reasons for seeing this mad, vibrant, hilarious show: some spectacular performances, with all actors really giving themselves to their story and the audience; side-splittingly funny, and refreshing, sequences with Bottom (the main clown of the play), the Bard’s ’rude mechanicals’ now traffic wardens; Titania really working as a triple-aspected goddess, played by three actresses with great voices; hip-hop beats and dances, also poetry (especially fine from Demetrius) and various styles of song, filling the venue with skill and energy, and often teasing and playing with the audience, exactly as the nature of these fairies / invisibles dictates; the play and its characters brought up to date in ways that actually work and retain the ideas and humour of the original; the sheer enjoyment of those watching, with some giving a standing ovation to finish.
So: an exciting, amusing, entertaining and stimulating production – go see!

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