Leaving aside the unintended irony of the first night of Shakespeare's sunniest rom-com being rained off, if ever there was a play to be seen outdoors, A Midsummer night's Dream is the one. This was made clear once the seasons finally smiled on Emily Reutlinger's production, the second of this year's Bard in the Botanics season, which serves up a bright, youthful but utterly serious take on the play.
It starts with grey-robed besties Hermia and Helena appearing to have taken a vow of silence before the pair let rip with their heart's desires. With Theseus' attempts to preside over both greeted with disdain, once the pair morph into Bottom and Titania respectively, it looks more like they've not quite come down from Glastonbury.
As performed by just five lead actors, there's a trippiness in the way each character melds into another, as if they're being led astray between realities. Such high spirits are accentuated by an acoustic guitar-wielding Lysander, a ukulele-playing princess and a trio of fairies who look like they've wandered out of the dance tent.
If Martin Donaghy makes a swaggeringly shamanic Puck while David Rankine plays Lysander with an archness somewhere between Blackadder and Hollyoaks, this Dream belongs to the women. As played by Meghan Tyler and Joanne Thomson, Hermia and Helena are stronger, more assertive and more sexually knowing than sometimes seen, and their sparring here is a furious delight. Once the lovers come to, even the Mechanicals' botched take on Pyramus and Thisbe seems to have hidden depths before the finale sources the ultimate anthem for free spirits everywhere.
The Herald, July 6th 2015