May contain minor spoilers.
“Wow!” I breathed to myself as I entered Shakespeare’s Globe and took in the amazing set. Large white spheres floated above the theatre, several green wind socks hung down over the groundling area, orange flowers hung from the backstage archways that lead the actors on stage.”
I had always wanted to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe, visiting last year and touring the historic venue only made me want to see a performance there even more. With the release of the theatre’s summer programming, we found out my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was going to be on not long after my birthday, so as a present it was arranged for us to head to London and see the performance.
Arriving at the venue well before the doors were due to open, we noticed the trees outside The Globe were wooden trunks topped with silver, metal branches and leaves (some of which would later be lit up with small lights, which made them look even more magical).
Heading into the main entrance, the doors that led to the actual theatre still weren’t open yet. We wandered around the gift shop before buying the evening’s programme. It was perusing through these that informed us about the trees outside. They were an extension of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s set. ‘The Forest’ was a seasonal installation, presumably to reflect the fairy woodland, into which the main characters of the play stumble and where much of the story’s mischief and mayhem arises.
The doors opened at 6pm, with half an hour to spare before the first half began we hired our seat cushions ready for the lengthy play. A bell was rung just before 6.30pm and we were ushered to our seats, heading through the wooden doors – but not before spotting the amusing sign below, that was also a hint of what was to come in the next three hours.
“Wow!” I breathed to myself as I entered Shakespeare’s Globe and took in the amazing interior. Large white spheres floated above the theatre, several green wind socks hung down over the groundling area, orange flowers hung from the backstage doorways. Hanging over the stage was a lit up sign that read “Rock the Ground” (taken from a line spoken by Oberon), which lit up red at certain points during the performance.
Above the back of the stage sat a group of musicians, in the middle of which was a woman with an electric sitar. All of this gave the whole set a sort of Indian wedding appearance and suggested the music would follow suit.
The costume was equally as spectacular as the set. The fairies outfits were brilliantly designed in particular Titania’s costume which changed through the use of removable layers during the play. Bottom’s donkey head was also a great piece. Made of woven wood material and interwoven flowers, it allowed the audience to see the actors face and expressions.
The actors were all very talented, walking the line of humour and great Shakespearean lines with ease. Above all, though it was Puck that, as usual, brought the most laughter and mischief, including the use of a water pistol and a lot of audience participation.
The play itself stuck mainly to the original script but with some serious modernisation and subtle changes in its context. Firstly the play’s setting was changed from Athens to the Southbank, allowing for a change in the characters from Athenians to ‘Hoxton Hipsters’. Secondly, the group of people performing the play within the play; The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe, were changed from Athenian tradesmen to workers from the globe. A humorous introduction from this group came before the main play, going through safety in the event of a fire (something which the globe is infamous for) and ensuring everyone had their mobile phone turned off.
Additionally, Helena’s gender was switched to male and ‘she’ became Helenus. This change created a great friendship and dynamic between Helenus and Hermia including a brilliant dance performance to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’. Of course, to make this work, some of the words and personal pronouns in the script were changed. Furthermore, in order to maintain the traditional chaos and confusion in the forest between the couples, a tent was used when Hermia and Lysander fall asleep in the forest and are mistaken for the other couple of Athenians (or in this case Hoxton Hipsters).
As well as the use of Beyoncé music, David Bowie’s Space Oddity was sung by some of the characters, which was a lovely tribute to the singer who passed away in January. Alongside this music was also Indian Bollywood style music played by the talented musicians situated above the stage. The dancing also reflected the music styles with Bhangra style choreography and more modern dance moves like ‘The Robot’. Another brilliant idea for the play was the musical rendition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, the poem’s iambic pentameter and rhythm allow for it to be adapted to music perfectly.
For anyone who likes Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in line with the traditional, this is possibly not the play for you. While it does stick closely to the original text, the interpretation by artist director Emma Rice is far from what many might be used to. For me, however, this production of The Dream was truly mesmerising, thoughtful and funny – with brilliant use of modernisation, comedy and music performed on such a stunning backdrop staging. I can truthfully say it was the best adaptation I’ve seen of the play so far and an exciting experience to see it performed in such an iconic home of Shakespearean work.