Marine Furet enjoys the Sherman Theatre’s bilingual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted by Nia Morais and Mari Izzard.
Baz Luhrmann inserts, pantomime references and cheesy pop covers mix to delightful effect in this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream adapted by Mari Izzard and Nia Morais for the Sherman, which proves a perfect antidote to the dreariness of the wet season.
It’s a joy to watch the cast, made up of both experienced and young actors, come to grips with Shakespeare’s bawdy, facetious play about mismatched pairings and shifting identities. Most notable is Morais and Izzard’s choice to adapt the play bilingually: Welsh is the language of the fairies and, as the play goes on, becomes a sign that a character has been enchanted, turning it into the language of poetic possibility and chaotic fun. And fun is something this play has in shedloads – roaring laughter welcomed the production the night this reviewer attended.
Shakespeare’s original A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a strange play, in turns beautiful, hilarious, and cruel, with the Indian child at the core of Titania and Oberon’s dispute a thorn in the side of the plot it can never extract. Swapping Titania (Nia Roberts) and Oberon’s (Sion Ifan) roles, as is the case of this production, does not cancel this out, but puts their conflict and its effect on the world in a different light, making it the obverse of Hippolyta’s relationship with a warmongering Theseus wishing to put his military past behind him.
The fun continues through the looking glass, as this production treats us with a sparkly vision of the fairy land.
Nia Roberts brings a blend of merry cruelty and mischievousness to her role as the fairy queen getting her revenge over her husband, contrasting with her brooding rebelliousness as the queen of the Amazons waiting for the right moment to overtake her groom. The silhouettes of guards always surrounding her hint at the politics reigning over Athens’ court and give the production an added layer of depth that doesn’t weigh it down. Sion Ifan’s red coat and crown give him a comical air as the leader of the Athenians fancying himself a conqueror, in amusing opposition to his swagger as king of the fairies.
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Another notable gender swap is the change of Lysander’s character to Lysanna, played by Lauren Morais. Playing opposite Dena Davies (who makes a promising stage debut as Hermia), Morais gives Lysanna a grounded energy that clashes, comically at times, with a headstrong Hermia bent on escaping the constraints of her rank. I was perhaps even more impressed with Rebecca Wilson, who, as Helena, gets a remarkable amount of comedic mileage from her characters’ fascination with Tom Mumford’s Demetrius. Dressed up in a mini skirt and loafers get-up worthy of a preppy queen bee, Helena runs, pounces, moans, screams and crawls with an utter abandon that results in hilarious scenes, even as the object of her love continues to spurn her (little does he know).
The fun continues through the looking glass, as this production treats us with a sparkly vision of the fairy land. Members of the court wear fanciful masks, Titania struts around in a dark-folklore-style dress, while Oberon revels in a long shiny coat. His moments with Sion Pritchard as Bottom turned into an ass are propped up by the actors’ offbeat chemistry, and we almost regret Bottom’s return to the human world, even despite his enchanting co-workers led by Hannah McPake’s Peter Quince. Leah Gaffey’s Puck does an astonishing job as Titania’s partner in crime. In short – run and see the Sherman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running in Cardiff until 29 October.
Tickets to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Sherman Theatre are on sale here.
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