Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Arcola Queer Collective

Directed by Nick Connaughton

5*

Arcola Queer Collective’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is back for more and to house its popularity has been upgraded to the bigger theatre space at the Arcola. The audience are greeted by Roxy and George and a few tables pilled high with bottles of Rosé and generous lines of some white powder, a hint at the mysterious power of drugs to bring courting couples together or perhaps to manipulate the odds.

The collective is made up of seasoned Cabaret performers, professional actors and some impressive newcomers. The show they’ve made, directed by Nick Connaughton and spiced with monologues by Patrick Cash (which are taken from verbatim sources), is utterly charming from beginning to end. Each performer is allowed to play to their strengths and the sincerity of their performances, or insincerity in the case of the devilishly delightful Miss Cairo and Rubyyy Jones, leaves you always wanting more.

The Shakespearian text is shaken for everything it’s worth, with a condensed version adapted by Connaughton leaving just enough to allow room for the performers’ individuality to inhabit the tale. This truly is a show about characters playing to their strengths and when they hit a beautiful piece of text, such as Puck’s closing verses the whole thing sings beautifully.

Speaking of singing beautifully, Rudi Douglas as the ‘Irish Boy’, looms high above the production with a keyboard rendering haunting cover versions to add depth and heart to the story. He also has a monologue of his own which he delivers with so much charm and wit it’s no wonder the whole company raise him on their shoulders in the finale.

I think the staging perhaps has faired less well in it’s transfer and what I imagine was an intimate cabaret setting in the smaller studio space seems a little disconnected in the larger auditorium. Despite this the ensemble never lose their personal connection with the audience and no matter what their level of experience we are kept as close in their consideration as the company seem to be with each other.

The production is only running till the end of the week so if you’re looking for something to see this weekend I urge you to go and see it, you will fall in love. If you can’t make it, then let’s hope this delightful and dynamic production makes it back to the stage very soon. For my part, I hope this ensemble’s work continues and I look forward to seeing what they dream up next.

© John Fitzpatrick 2015

On at the Arcola Theatre (London) until Saturday.

Booking: https://www.arcolatheatre.com/production/arcola/a-midsummer-nights-dream

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