The question mark in the title of Loose Canon’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream suggests that this is not a direct translation of Shakespeare’s woodland comedy. It also highlights the dreamy side of Shakespeare’s play where nothing is quite as it seems. Despite being closer to the text than the title would suggest, Loose Canon really make this play about fairies and love-potions their own.
The cast of five play 14 characters in a play which has three different story-lines running through it. This sounds like it would be difficult to follow but the skill of the performers and the clear direction actually makes it very easy. Loose Canon’s experience with classical texts is evident in the ease with which they play with Shakespeare’s text.
There are great performances from every member of the cast as they skillfully change characters, sometimes mid-scene! Bottom (Ger Kelly) was very funny, and a proper ass even before he earned his horse’s head. Instead of the typical mischievous sprite, Phil Kingston’s Puck is droll and dead-pan in his clumpy Doc boots and pink fairy-wings. He provides a wonderful contrast to the flowery, over the top delivery of Barry O’Connor as Oberon, the King of the Fairies and the two have some wonderful scenes together. Helena and Hermione (Caitriona Ni Mhurchu and Louise Lewis, respectively) are fantastically spiteful and cruel as the warring friends who, thanks to the fairy’s meddling, end up fighting off the advances of the same man.
The set is white and clean. It is reminiscent of the set from Peter Brook’s famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970 except in this version the clean atheistic is interrupted by the messy tables on one side of the stage. They are over-flowing with bottles of alcohol and half-full glasses, cigarettes and records, like the remains of a party. It gives the play an edge of over-indulgent debauchery.
The Peter Brook play features briefly in the clips that are played throughout the play. This multimedia aspect didn’t always work for me. At times, the jerky video clips of past productions are a nice additional layer of unrealness and it is a clever way of skimming over the less interesting parts of the play. However, sometimes they seemed to be explaining things to the audience which didn’t need explaining.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable production of Shakespeare’s well-known romantic comedy. In this version the comedy is definitely brought to front. Shakespeare’s jokes are sometimes a little bit hit and miss but this production managed to make them genuinely funny. This production is clever and funny and very much worth seeing.