Friday 23 March 2019 at 19.30pm
What a joy this lively and upbeat production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Tobacco Factory Theatres is. I can imagine it will have purists pearl clutching with its character gender swaps and dramatic dystopian-feel Athens.
Mike Tweedle is the beating heart behind some of the best Bristol produced theatre at the moment, with another Shakespeare hit that feels accessible and with a broad appeal.
Having missed the official press night, I was determined to squeeze a visit in after my twelve-year-old son swore on his Lego collection, that his school English teacher had said they weren’t going to read the play script of Mabeth – which they were studying – because the language was ‘too complex’ and the teacher felt it was ‘too difficult’ for the class to understand.
So, there was a lot riding on my determination to prove I’m Right and I Know Best about what children can actually appreciate of Shakespeare.
Having spent some time cementing the plot the day before, I had to do some hurried backtracked whispers to explain that Lysander was now Lysanda and Helena was now Helenus.
The gender swap was a fantastic way of making the play feel relevant and current. It worked really well, particularly with Danann McAleer’s appalled Egeus refusing Hermia’s marriage to Lysanda.
This dynamic and snappy production goes for the laughs where they are to be found. These are most often with Heather William’s Bottom and the actors performing Pyramus and Thisbe – the original The Play That Goes Wrong.
Evlyne Oyedokun’s Lysanda also had the audience in stitches, along with Paksie Vernon’s degenerating umbrellas which she flourished in outrage.
This is a well assembled cast which works well together and felt more of an ensemble than individuals.
Whilst I can quite happily say last night’s play was brilliant, the proof of the pudding for me was what my child thought. I wanted him to experience what Shakespeare could be. Yes, we don’t always know what every line means, but it flows and when performed well makes perfect sense.
From the amount of chortling he was doing, I knew it was a resounding success. He loved the performance, was engaged throughout and sat rigidly still throughout the 2.5 hour show. Not bad for a child who needs a wobble cushion for his part time school and has movement breaks scheduled into his day by an educational psychologist.
Too often, Shakespeare is seen as complicated and lofty, high-brow theatre for middle class types. It doesn’t have to be. So thank goodness for directors like Mike Tweedle who makes Shakespeare like this that everyone in Bristol can enjoy. I know it’s one of the best things I will see this year.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 06 April 2019.
For more information, visit: www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com/