Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Cambridge Arts Theatre - two hours of fun and constant surprise

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Cambridge Arts Theatre

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: ©Tristram Kenton

This is not a traditional version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It takes terrible liberties but it is definitely a play for today. At one point, there is literally a bun fight - joined in by the audience who were screaming with laughter.

The play is full of surprises, which it would be mean to give away. At the beginning I thought I would hate it but it become more delightful as it went on. It’s two hours without an interval - but the interval (which trust me can sometimes be the best part of a show) was not missed.

The character Peter Quince, head of the mechanicals who produces the play within the play, is the star of this show. At first I thought George Fouracres with his downbeat Black Country accent, front of stage with a microphone introducing us to the proceedings like the secretary of a working man’s club, would be tedious. He went on so long with his explanations that I wanted to cry out: sodding get on with it. Do the play,

Then you realise this is the play. The fairies and the lovers are the incidentals in this production, the leading roles are the amateur actors who double up as the band.

We have a brilliant, female Puck in Kayla Meikle who is a mistress of technology as well as magic and it works a treat. The modern dress and devices make sense. Though why the whole thing is set in a grimy lavatory it’s hard to tell.

Bottom is a huge surprise in the form of David Ganly who actually delivered the lines poignantly. He would fit into any production, ancient or modern - and probably, like his character, could play all the roles. I’d cast him as Cleopatra.

The essential bits of the Shakespeare play are here. Hermia and Helena (Rebecca Birch and Amy Marchant) still have their fight, the lovers are still tricked into thinking they are in love with the wrong person. The queen and king of the fairies, Titania (Allyson Ava-Brown) and Oberon (a most athletic Harry Jardine) quarrel eloquently - but most of all, this is a pantomime and an uplifting evening of smiles. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, June 9.