Taking Flight theatre’s interpretation of the raucous and farcical Shakespearian classic captured perfectly the sense of carnival at the play’s heart, in their open-access adaption at St Ann’s Wells Gardens. Taking Flight pride themselves on making their theatre accessible for both actors and audience alike, and that is exactly what this performance was. While it was no Royal Shakespeare Company, the actors delivered the script with refreshing energy and even managed to get some laughs for the sometimes subtle pun-based humour in the original script. The unique thing about this performance was its “Promenade” style- the action and indeed the audience were moved around numerous times during the performance (at every scene change, it seemed) and this lost its novelty rather quickly. While it added an interactive element, the constant shifting around often meant someone obscured your view, or the crucial elements of dialogue where lost in the occasionally deadening acoustics of the otherwise beautiful park surroundings. Despite this, the actors made effective use of the natural surroundings, and it certainly made the show more accessible to those unfamiliar with the play to see the action performed in an actual forest.
Artistic director Beth House’s experience in puppet theatre came in to play effectively with the use of a variety of puppets, both at the beginning to set up the story for the younger members of the audience (of whom there were many) and to add to the carnivalesque theme. Costuming was equally effective, with the fairies in particular given a modern (and very neon-influenced) update. This was the third time Taking Flight have put on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and their experience with the play showed- the inclusion of song, the energetic and aptly farcical acting and audience interaction all made the show refreshingly accessible and clearly exciting for the younger members of the audience. Without the constant shifting around this would have been faultless as an accessible version of Shakespeare; while the handling of the language wasn’t flawless and the acting was at times simplistic, the energy, good-humour and clear dedication of the actors made up for it.