A group of surly teenagers gather in detention. Their punishment: to read aloud Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a chore doled out by puckish teacher ‘Mr Goodfellow’.
Stilted lines and stumbled readings follow, but then the teacher begins to weave strange magic as the teenagers find themselves taken over by the spirit of the play.
And Mr Goodfellow’s magic must be strong indeed, as before long the miscreants have transformed into accomplished actors, presenting an utterly charming and likeable version of the play in this co-production from Custom/Practice, Assembly, TEG Productions and Almeida Theatre.
Once blackboards have been replaced by bowers, this becomes a traditional version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of magical mishaps. Whilst most companies delight in transporting the Bard into contemporary settings, it is actually refreshing to see the action remain in Athenian woods: and also to witness the range and skill of this young company as they relish and revel in their roles.
There are no weak links here, with all the cast impressing. Mr Goodfellow becomes a spry and physical puck, whilst the actors portraying Helen and Hermia revel in the comedic aspects of their characters. Oberon and Titania are wonderfully portrayed, the actors imbuing them with a sexuality and mischief which befits their faerie lineage. And the cast create one of the most amusing versions of the Rude Mechanicals ever to stumble upon a stage.
All actors play two or even three roles, and scene and costume changes are smooth, as is the lively and well-paced direction.
These young and impressive shadows have most definitely not offended; on the contrary, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delight from start to finish.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Assembly George Square Circus Teatro until 27 August at 1600. Ticket details are available on the Fringe website.