By Danielle Farrow
Tread the Boards’ modern-set A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers Gothic fairies manipulating each other and mere mortals, as lovers and would-be performers enter the woods around Athens in one of Shakespeare’s few plays that is original in its plot.
The company takes delight in small ad-libs that help the actors stay fresh in their delivery and entertainingly highlights quirks of directors and performers – always likely to go down well with a Fringe audience, so often comprised of fellow theatre-makers.
With a couple of chairs, some ivy strewn about and a draped and cushioned table as Titania’s bower, design focuses on sound and lighting, the latter particularly effective for Titania’s speech about the state of nature reflecting the struggle between the two fairy royals and ensuing confusion in the changing seasons. Music punctuates movement, and both Evanescence and the Beatles feature.
There is great pace, energy and attack throughout the production from this Stratford-upon-Avon Fringe company, with Shakespeare’s language deftly handled. Hermia and her parent (a vocally versatile actress) are also both adept at sounding very real, with Demetrius and Quince having some similar moments, but others do not reach this level of acting performance, and some overly-mannered delivery fudges meaning, loses attention and can irritate. Each company member, though, has strong qualities: Titania is very clear in her delivery and uses gesture well, Bottom starts using more variation in voice once performing the farcical play; the actress playing Helena changes characters clearly and Puck, ably supported by Oberon, is obviously physically skilled.
The scene in which four lovers quarrel is highly entertaining, even if the staging sometimes overshadows the dialogue, and direction keeps the play moving along swiftly and includes fun explorations of scenes that add well to their humour, particularly when the amateur actors perform their piece.
Tread the Board’s Dream delivers on movement, energetic comedy and strong characterisations from multiple-role players, and in the dexterity of the actors’ delivery of lines, sometimes all too often lacking in many Shakespeare productions.
6, 8 & 10 August, 19:05 (20:55) @ theSpace @ North Bridge