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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars

The impact of this multi-lingual epic rendering of Shakespeare’s trawl through the underworld was huge when it first played outdoor arenas in Bombay.

It was thrilling enough six months ago when it moved indoors to London’s Roundhouse.

Here too on the last legs of its UK tour, Tim Supple’s production remains impressive, even if some of its expansive sense of scale is lost by squeezing it into an old-fashioned proscenium arch space.

What it holds onto is its joyously realised bravura that rips into a tale long hi-jacked by the heritage industry and makes it sexier and more muscular.

Acrobatics, live music and a gorgeous looking cast work their magic on a climbing frame underworld hidden by a paper curtain that’s literally ripped aside to reveal its rigging.

Puck is a bad-boy with Mohican hair-cut and Frankie Goes To Hollywood moustache, whose fairy helpers’ gymnastic displays give them the air of a tribe of lost boys and girls locked out of the love-in.

Here is a Dream reinvented for the back-packer age, with all the fun of the cultural tourist fair without having to leave town.

It nevertheless remains the brightest, most topsy-turvy breath of fresh air the bard has received for some time.

Its irreverent mix of ancient ritual and modern spectacle reclaims Shakespeare for the here and now of 21st century multi-culturalism with all of the pageantry and none of the platitudes.

But this is a play about love, and while the second half’s opening bachannal may resemble a Bollywood Royal Variety take on Kenneth Anger, the show’s final number is charming enough to leave the warmest of glows in its wake.

The Herald, October 25th 2007

ends

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