A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Review – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York
By Lisa Byrne, July 2018
Car parks are normally the most drab places on the planet – unless you’re lucky enough to stumble across a dead king lying six feet under – but York really has bucked this trend in spectacular style. Clifford’s Tower car park is overlooked by the stately Norman keep, majestically placed on top of a grassy mound, as well as the stunning York Castle Museum and Crown Court.
Now these spectacular buildings have been joined by the imposing, Timber-framed Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre – Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean Theatre. And thank goodness for that as I doubt there is a more magical way to spend a glorious, balmy evening then watching the outstanding production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with its woodland creatures and Athenian courtly propriety.
“Rollicking, fantastic fun”
Directed by Juliet Forster, the play draws you into the silly and mischievous world of fairies as well as constricted Athenian conventions, where women’s sole purpose is to look pretty in gorgeous gowns while their future marriages are debated. This utterly bonkers combination of characters and plots make a production which is such rollicking, fantastic fun. Wayward fairies constantly rush around the wooden stage and through the Groundling audience, making shrill noises as they descend from the ceiling on ribbons before disappearing back into the rafters.
All the actors are outstanding, especially Paul Hawkyard as Bottom in The Rude Mechanicals, who has the audience in hysterics with his various shenanigans such as relieving himself on a fairy thinking it’s a tree while Puck, played by Clare Corbett, causes a maelstrom of fun and frolics, especially after being given Oberon’s petal love juice.
Olivia Onyehara as Helena is constantly close to hysteria and plays the part brilliantly, as does Amy Lennox as Hermia. The masters of mayhem, Titania and Oberon embrace gender swapping with Amanda Ryan’s Oberon delighting in misbehaviour and Antony Bunsee as an avant garde Titania, wearing an exotic woodland garland – designer Sara Perks has definitely surpassed herself with a host of fascinating woodland creations. There’s also delightful, spritely dancing, choreographed by Philippa Vafadari as well as Chris Madin’s glorious musical score.
Without doubt the Lunchbox Theatrical Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the stuff that dreams are made of. From arriving at the Shakespearean Village to enjoy a drink in the scorching evening sun while being serenaded by Tudor minstrels, to taking your seats in the intimate, timbered theatre where you feel transported back 400 years, the experience is heavenly.
But it’s the combination of the 13-sided historic-looking building, outstanding production, fantastic actors and of course, the work of the bard himself that makes an evening at the Rose Theatre an experience I will never forget. Who knew that a car park could be a place of such excitement.
images: Ant Robling