JOYCE MCMILLAN on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman, 19.4.14.
4 stars ****
WHY DOES IT WORK so well, this thing that Edward Hall and his young Propeller company do with Shakespeare’s great plays? Here they are, this all-male band of players, not only hobbling themselves with a historic limitation that Shakespeare must often have cursed, but also adding unnecessarily to the chronic problem of male dominance on British stages. Yet their Shakespearean comedies are superb – clear, passionate, athletic and joyful; perhaps something about the basic absurdity of men playing women helps the company to snap the bonds of naturalism, and soar off into Shakespeare’s magical world of fantasy and coincidence.
At any rate, the company’s current Midsummer Night’s Dream – in Edinburgh this week, alongside The Comedy Of Errors – is as lucid, vigorous and hilarious a version of the play as you are ever likely to see, set in a white dreamscape surrounded by a high ledge of whitewashed antique chairs, and transformed by washes of pink, blue and violet light. The production is not deep; there is no resonant doubling of roles, no dark undertow.
Yet there is a gorgeous two-and-a-half-hour love-affair between the 14-strong company and Shakespeare’s magnificent text, which they deliver to the audience with huge understanding, obvious pleasure, and terrific showbiz flair. And as always, with Propeller, there’s plenty of music both in the show and in the foyer at the interval; as the company sing their way through a series of jolly ‘Dream’ songs – including Dream A Little Dream Of Me – in a spirit that Shakespeare himself could only have applauded, and loved.