A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Botanics 2015)

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 6.7.15.
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3 stars ***

IF YOU like your Shakespeare long, languid, and lavishly resourced, then this brief post-student race around A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Emily Reutlinger as part of this summer’s Bard In The Botanics season, is not for you.  Crammed into 95 minutes without an interval, and performed by a company so scant of numbers that the five actors often barely have time to run behind a tree before they have to re-emerge as a different character, the show plays fast and loose with the ordering of Shakespeare’s scenes, and belts through the text at such a pace that poetry, and real lyricism, are in short supply, despite the presence of four supernumerary fairies in strange floral headgear floating around without a word of their own to speak.

Despite the hectic pace, though – and  a doubling and trebling of roles so confusing that it absolutely requires an audience already familiar with the play – there’s a huge charge of youthful energy and anarchy in Reutlinger’s production, and in the performances, that responds brilliantly to the essential playfulness of Shakespeare’s text.  David Rankine and Meghan Tyler are damned nearly irresistible as leading lovers Lysander and Hermia, although Tyler – who also has to play the comic lead, Bottom – almost squeaks and growls herself hoarse in the course of the evening.  And although a scrappy rewrite of the play’s ending means we miss its beautiful , magical conclusion, a rousing chorus of Because The Night Belongs To Lovers – sung by the whole cast to a strumming guitar – cheers us up again, and sends us happily off, into the summer evening.

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, until 11 July.

ENDS ENDS

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