WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE?: Bridge Theatre RUNTIME: 2 hours and 40 minutes (with a 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: 7/6, opens 11/6 and runs to 31/8/19 (To be broadcast by National Theatre Live 17/10/19)
The last time we saw an immersive Midsummer it was called The Donkey Show, it was set in a 70s New York nightclub and boasted a soundtrack of disco classics.
- Read on for reasons including how Gwendoline Christie from Game Of Thrones fares here
Could this ever be its match? Well Nicholas Hytner’s immersive Julius Caesar last year played to the strengths of the versatility of this relatively new theatre and we wished we’d seen it in the venue’s pit, right in the middle of the action.
Tonight we’re in the pit and acrobats and cast members hang from swings above the audience making full use of the venue’s height as four-poster beds covered in woodland flora rise on platforms at the corners of the stage at crucial moments.
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is about the marriage of the Duke Of Athens to Hippolyta and include the adventures of four young lovers and amateur theatre troop the Rude Mechanicals who are manipulated by the fairies in the forest the play is set.
The text is based on the 1625 First Folio but we can’t help but admire David Moorst’s mischievous sprite Puck for his acrobatics while acting but also his enthusiasm for going off script as he runs through the audience in the pit where we are.
‘Move’ he shrieks in his Northern accent as he tries to get through the crowd and then an exasperated ‘Londoners!’ before confessing ‘Plays are boring’.
If you’re here for Gwendoline Christie (who plays Lady Brienne of Tarth in HBO’s Game Of Thrones) she’s a little less to do than you might expect as Hippolyta and Titania but we thought her impetuousness and imperiousness as the latter was particularly impressive.
We loved her line at the opening of Act 2: ‘Fairies – jog on!’
The Rude Mechanicals perform a play-within-a-play and it’s a real comic highlight with some fine Diversity-style formation dancing, not least to Dizzee Rascal’s amazing Bonkers, and Hammed Animashaun as Bottom passes the six-laugh test on his own.
The young lovers are especially well cast and Kit Young, Paul Adeyefa, Tessa Bonham Jones and Isis Hainsworth are all names to watch out for in future.
We won’t spoil the comic highlight at the end of the first act but Oliver Chris proves he’s game for anything and the twist is absolutely in keeping with the spirit of the comedy.
By the end the pit audience was dancing around the stage, hand in hand with strangers, to Florence and the Machine in a flurry of ticker tape as a Glastonbury Festival vibe enveloped the venue.
We can’t imagine any other venue being able to stage the theatrical tricks that Hytner does here but the overwhelming sense of fun and mischief about this production makes it London’s must-see theatrical event of the summer.