A Midsummer Night's Dream was enjoyable, but sometimes a mediocre quality.
I’ve never appreciated Shakespeare’s dramatically long-winded prose style of writing, but I can appreciate the hard work it takes to memorise those lines. The Southampton University Theatre Group’s production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream increased my appreciation for the skill when these actors portrayed their deep understanding of the prose. After one or two stutters from first scene jitters, the actors had no problem reciting what seemed like a monologue per character in each scene. Although the acting itself came across artificially in some characters, such as Theseus, Lysander, Egeus, and Hippolyta, there was still a clear comprehension of the emotions Shakespeare intended. Most of the actors came across as though they were merely reciting lines and emotions rather than truly becoming their characters, especially in the first act. I found that some token actors, however, enhanced their characters by finding the dramatic comedy in their personas.
One of the more notable actors would be Sydney Butler as Helena, who fluidly portrayed Helena’s comedic annoyance and frustration; Butler portrayed an authentic and comfortable presence on stage. While Butler presented Helena with more comedy than dramatics, Sharon James’ acting as Puck filled the stage with a dramatic emphasis. Puck is meant to be humourous and James put 110% effort into dramatically portraying this comedic effect. Had this not been Shakespearean, I would find her efforts overwhelming but in the case of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the overwhelming dramatics were just as appreciated as they were necessary. Likewise, Annabel Hughes’ performance as Hermia was nothing but dramatic. Although her acting came across as forced rather than authentic at times, the emotional dramatics of Hermia was not lost her interpretation.
Some of the best productions often have side characters or ensemble with vibrant character and enthusiasm. As they say, there are no small parts. Although it seems like that’s not what the directors thought in the first act of this play. The characters played by Dan Hopper, Simran Mann, Martha Austin, Rachel Noyce, Sam Pegg and Mika Woods were, unfortunately, drowned out in the first act but made the show in the second act. When given the spotlight these actors brought out their character’s personality and comedic affect in strides. Especially Sam Pegg as Bottom, who brought out a natural and enjoyable sense dramatic comedy. When given the opportunity, Martha Austin stole the audience when her character, Snout, starred as a very sassy wall in their play. Mann, Noyce and Hooper were quiet the crowd-pleasers as well in their small moments of fame. Lastly, Aside from Woods’ inconsistent accent, she thrived in her role as Quince with relatable and natural acting.
The production’s simple set was perfect for the production, any more decoration would have been overkill and any less would’ve taken away from the mystical theme. Although, I found the costumes to be sorely disappointing. A Shakespearean play with dramatic acting but lacking dramatic attire.
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare and would enjoy an evening of quirky yet well-portrayed acting, I would recommend seeing this production for a casual evening. The cast appeared to be a fun lot and the audience was satisfied in their choice to come to see the play, especially after the second act. I give a big round of applause to side characters/ensemble and a well done to the main characters for an obviously well-rehearsed show.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed at the Annex Theatre from 27th-30th November 2019.