One of the joys of the Edinburgh Fringe is that every year there are new adaptations of Shakespeares plays, which often throw up new ideas and new ways of looking at these old favourites. This is the first appearance of Footsbarns big top in Edinburgh and it would be hard to find a better setting for A Midsummer Nights Dream than at the top of Calton Hill.
Inside the big top there is a huge space, enough for seating all round, for children to sit in the middle and for the actors to leave the stage and walk around or even behind the audience. Clearly no expense has been spared on the scenery and costumes, which are magnificent. Lords and ladies, fairies and rustics all certainly look the part.
The performance itself is basically true to Shakespeares play and most of the speech is in Shakespearian verse. There are, however, additional farce elements built in, making it something of a mixture of play, pantomime and circus. At times, particularly when the rustics are on stage, it almost seems to be influenced by Frankie Howard. Given the target audience of families and young children, this is probably exactly whats required.
However, the big flaw is in the speech. Several of the cast members clearly do not speak English as their first language and Shakespearian verse spoken with a strong accent can be difficult to follow, particularly when it is not clearly articulated. At times it is impossible to understand what is being said. I must point out that this did not seem to matter to most of the audience, including many children, who applauded vigorously and at great length.
Not a production for Shakespeare purists but it would appeal to families with young children.