As he shields himself from a magical blizzard with his umbrella, it feels like Bottom has strayed into an arctic Narnia, rather than the warmth of an Athenian summer.
And though the snowy setting is the most obvious change in Matthew Lenton’s visually striking production, other smaller casting, scripting and design choices sprinkle A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a Vanishing Point kind of magic.
Some of these choices work better than others. The switch in seasons actually benefits the piece, transforming the likes of Titania’s heady summer bower into an icy winter grotto. More interestingly, it takes the themes of mortal foolishness and magical meddling and adds to them an optimistic sense of growth, as the snows melt to give way to the first flowers of spring.
The ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ bookending works less well, feeling a little contrived and unnecessary: as does dressing up the four mortal lovers in clothes which make them look characters on a CBeebies show rather than Athenian lords and ladies.
Yet there is more to like than dislike here: including a marvellously mischievous performance by Cath Whitefield as a steampunk-ish Puck; and a gloriously po-faced comic turn by a fine company of Rude Mechanicals, with Jordan Young’s Bottom and Lyceum regular Grant O’Rourke’s Flute competing with each other to steal the shambolic show.
In a play where magic is at its core, Vanishing Point succeed in conjuring up an enjoyable and mystical performance, aided no end by Kai Fischer’s mesmerising lighting and stage design. However, some of Lenton’s choices – whilst as inventive as ever – stop it short of being truly spellbinding.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at The Lyceum until 17 November. More details and ticket information are available on the Lyceum website.