As one of Shakespeare's most popular plays,
Gin and Tonic Productions have staged a wonderful play that shows how Shakespeare can be thoroughly entertaining and successful without new interpretations and gimmicks.
This production has done what many companies seem to fear - relying on the text to create a strong production. There are no unusual rewrites or bold artistic statements; on the contrary, castings like the doubling up of Theseus and Hippolyta with Oberon and Titania are seen in many productions of this play. Yet it is the simplicity of this show that makes it great. There is no set, instead the woods are distinguished from Athens through the use of ethereal lighting effects. This means that, without a cluttered stage, the actors have free reign to dominate the space and exert as much energy as possible. A really nice touch was the use of physicality between Puck (Brian Gilbert) and the fairies. The small somersaults and acrobatics that Puck used, especially with Moth (Tiffany Soirat) were very impressive and further added to the otherworldliness of the woods.
The cast were fantastic. Esmee Cook had a wonderful regal air as Hippolyta and Titania, yet with an alluring edge that made the seduction of Bottom (Joe Mcardle) incredibly believable. The highlights of the production for me were Barnaby Findlay as Demetrius and Sarah Lamb as Helena, who worked phenomenally well as a duo. Lamb's hilarious performance was full of juxtaposition from the forlorn lover, to the feisty temptress as the lovers fought over her. Findlay has the art of comic performance mastered. Though not quite Shakespearean, added one liners like "that was one time" go down a treat, but it is his effortless grasp of the complex language that is truly impressive. He delivers each line with strength and clarity that consequently has us in stitches.
One of the only letdowns of this production was that some of the actors couldn't quite capture the linguistic beauty of the script. Many of Oberon's speeches were delivered monotonously in a voice so low and quiet that, even though it did sound very pretty, really did become an effort to hear. In moments like this, what was supposed to seem like soft contemplation often looked like a lack of energy or a very one dimensional character.
Gin and Tonic Productions have staged a wonderful play that shows how Shakespeare can be thoroughly entertaining and successful without new interpretations and gimmicks. This is a very refreshing show with fantastic performances and I cannot wait to see more of this talented company's work.