A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Director: Nicholas Hytner, Ross MacGibbon
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Oliver Chris, Gwendoline Christie, David Moorst, Isis Hainsworth, Tessa Bonham Jones, Paul Adeyefa, Kit Young, Kevin McMonagle, Felicity Montagu, Hammed Animashaun, Jermaine Freeman, Ami Metcalf, Jamie-Rose Monk, Francis Lovehall
Seen on: 17.10.2019
[Here is my review of an old Austrian production.]
Duke Theseus (Oliver Chris) is about to marry Hippolyta (Gwendoline Christie) when he is approached to solve a dispute: Hermia (Isis Hainsworth) is supposed to marry Demetrius (Paul Adeyefa), but she is in love with Lysander (Kit Young). When Theseus tells her to obey her father, Hermia runs away with Lysander, followed by Demetrius who was warned by Hermia’s friend Helena (Tessa Bonham Jones) who also follows the three into the forest. But the forest is a dangerous place. Even more so since fairy king Oberon (Oliver Chris) is having a fight with his queern Titania (Gwendoline Christie).
I absolutely loved this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It isn’t perfect, but it is really close. It is definitely funny, beautiful and really cool.
I really love A Midsummer Night’s Dream in general – it’s my favorite Shakespearean comedy. And this production of it made it as funny as it could possibly be – and that is a whole damn lot. But that’s not all the production has to offer – it is beautifully set in scene with the stage, or rather several stages, in the middle of the audience, plus trapeze work that is appropriately magical.
The cast is also great – really all the way through to the smallest role. I loved Christie as both Hippolyta and Titania, but I do have to admit that I was particularly taken with Oliver Chris. He was just mind-blowingly good and I basically left the cinema where the play was streamed with hearts in my eyes.
The original text is not without its gender issues, ahem, especially in the way Oberon humiliates Titania. Hytner noticed this and tries to work around it by switching events and lines between Titania and Oberon, having Oberon fall into bed with donkey!Bottom (Hammed Animashaun), for example. In an interview he basically said he solved misogyny that way, but that is not quite true. Yes, Titania gets to have the upper hand here, but ultimately that just turns her into the vengeful, jealous woman – and that is also a misogynistic trope. Plus, the scene with Oberon and Bottom – while absolutely hilarious because Chris and Animashaun were pitch-perfect – does smack of “it’s even more humiliating and simultaneously funnier because it isn’t just sombody falling in love with a donkeyperson, but because it’s somebody falling in love with a donkeyperson gayly“.
But, I guess, at least they tried. And I definitely had a blast with the play. I’d watch this production of it again in a heartbeat.