A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park
There is no perfect setting other than the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to see a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The birds flying overhead, the gentle breezes and the tall trees rustling nearby help transport you to the magical woodland forest in this tale of fairies and young love, and it certainly made this season’s showing of the classic play all the more enjoyable.
As this story has been told countless times in many adaptations over hundreds of years, it comes as no surprise that this time, another new element was thrown in – the setting of a gypsy community, complete with a caravan and the chaviest clothes known to man. The four young lovers – Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius – look strange juxtaposed with the enchanted and dream-like visuals of the fairies that manipulate and poison them, fusing the classic and the modern in quite a convincing way thanks to the performances from the actors.
Rebecca Oldfield played Helena with the perfect amount of humour and lustful devotion as she tottered around the stage in heels and a crop top, doting on and borderline stalking her love, Demetrius. George Buckhari plays Bottom, whose head is turned into that of an ass and who Titania, Queen of the Fairies falls in love with. His performance was brilliant and stole the show in terms of laughter, along with the other members of the acting troupe in the forest – builders and workmen – as they put on their performance at the end of the play.
The music mixed haunting and poignant melodies by Olly Fox with songs such as ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’, ‘YMCA’ and Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, again blending the classic with the modern in a way that brought rapturous laughter around the auditorium.
The staging by Jon Bausor was quite simple but effective, with the caravan being the central piece at the beginning and dangling from a crane above the stage for most of the rest of performance as the main characters head into the woods. With a trailer transforming into a grassy patch of the forest and mist emitted throughout, the atmosphere seemed authentic, helped by the real trees from the park in the background.
Shakespeare’s enduring story of interweaving plots of love, magic and comedy cannot be criticised, and this new adaptation by Matthew Dunster is as amusing and evocative as ever. If, however, you are after a straight and standard version of the classic play then the outrageous costumes and music in this adaptation will leave you wondering what on earth Shakespeare would have made of the garishness of it all. But the beautiful setting and comedic genius cannot take away from the fact that this is one of the greatest Shakespeare plays. Were the traffic cones on heads and the dancing on the roof of a caravan nothing but a dream? You will have to watch it to find out.