“It wont be what the tourists were expecting but they’ll be glad they came.”
– Evening Standard
“That was the best show I’ve ever seen… but I haven’t seen that many shows.”
– My friend Natalie
Director, Matthew Dunster, presents a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park provides the perfect setting for the woodland tale.
I’m sure that there are many downsides to performing in the open air and had I attended on a day when the weather had not been so kind then perhaps my experience would have been a very different one. The theatre warns of rain cancellations and delays before you purchase your tickets. However this wasn’t the case for our viewing. In fact the conditions could not have been more ideal and indeed gave the added effect of bright sunshine for the first half of the play and a lunar glow for the second. It is for this reason that I suggest seeing the later evening showing, rather than the afternoon, which I wouldn’t imagine is quite so atmospheric.
As the performance drew on and the sun retreated below the horizon, the ceiling became a blanket of stars. Nocturnal birds could be heard in the trees surrounding the open theatre, no doubt attracted by the sounds. Tiny bugs flitted through the beams of the stage lights, illuminated in deep purple and vibrant red, appearing fairylike almost as if by design, although surely, set designer, Jon Bauser cannot lay claim to this subtle fortune.
That being said he has done a remarkable job in reconstructing Shakespeare’s Athens in to something much closer to home. When visitors arrive they might be surprised to find the main stage appears to be under construction. A weathered white van is parked clumsily by the side entrance, a crane towers over the audience and pneumatic power tools can be heard at work as, what seems to be, contracted labourers in high vis coats run around the stage clearing up. The inhabitants of the scene are gypsy-like characters with urban London accents who live in caravans and trailers. Each are in character, brawling, joking and flirting as the audience take their seats, before the first line is spoken.
Somehow Dunster has taken this modern setting and weaved a tale that remains accurate to the original plot. The story portrays four young “Athenian” mortals who befall the meddling of fairy folk in the Bard’s tale of jealousy and misplaced affections, perhaps none quite so misplaced as that of Titania, Queen of the fairies, who is seduced in to falling madly in love with half man half beast, Bottom.
Puck, a character I remember from childhood as playful and naughty, takes on a much more sinister role disguised as local hoodie so that he can infiltrate the mortals. He moves across the stage on his BMX acting as the eyes and ears of his King Oberon.
The real show stealer though is a brilliant comedic performance from Rebecca Oldfield who plays the part of hopelessly devoted Helena. Strutting around in TOWIE style clothing, her shrill voice matches the character’s neediness perfectly, as she chases her desired Demetrius through the woods in six inch stilettos.
The Open Air Theatre is running the play until 05th September so if you want tickets you’ll have to act fast. My tip is to check the weather before booking and if you can, try and get a evenning showing. Click here for ticket info.