Royal Conservatoire Scotland
Opening a New Year production of Shakespeare's sunniest rom-com during
a weekend of stormy weather more appropriate to The Tempest is a
gloriously contrary gesture. There was much warmth on offer, however,
in Ali de Souza's 1920s take on the play performed in the RCS' Chandler
Studio space by young acting students.
The romantic merry-go-round builds up an impressive head of dry ice
later on, but it's a rag-time soundtrack that ushers in the assorted
cross-class shenanigans that follows. Even the Mechanicals – here the
Royal Artisans of Athens Alliance Amateur Drama, or RAAAADA, if you
please – enter with a soft-shoe chorus line.
Lysander and Demetrius are a pair of horny lads in stripey blazers, and
the objects of their assorted affections, Hermia and Helena, a couple
of society flappers who've just discovered boys. Only once things move
underground, however, and Puck applies his chemical charms in all the
wrong places, does the party really start to swing. Here Laurie Scott's
flat-capped ham of a Bottom falls in with Catherine Barr's Poison
Ivy-like Titania and her coterie of tie-dye clad love-children who
resemble revellers at a jazz-age rave.
If Titania is the play's liberated female heart, it rubs off on her
more earth-bound sisters too. Alex Kampfner makes for a sprite-like
Hermia fit to burst as she spars with the specky string-bean and force
of comedic nature that is Sarah Miele's Helena. If the pair's interplay
with their suitors captures the full vainglorious thrust of the dating
game's many pitfalls, their own exchanges are a hell-hath-no-fury
whirlwind before all involved must face the music and dance.
The Herald, January 13th 2015