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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
4 stars
Bard in the Botanics may not have the full-on whistles-and-bells resources of Take That's Hampden Park extravaganza, but there's a definite whiff of X-Factor-age showbiz about Gordon Barr's jazz-age musical reinvention of Shaky's ever malleable new age rom-com. A not so big top beside the Kibble Palace morphs into a glitzyu nightclub, complete with a bevy of dancing girl and boy fairies, Puck as a Cabaret style MC, and bill-topping show-girl Hippolyta mashing up Fever and Madonna's Vogue for Theseus' high-rolling rat-pack. Clearly the place to be, Puck's place becomes an arena for after-hours adventures and almighty benders. Bottom and his band of players, meanwhile, come on like an alternative comedy troupe whose rubbish act is part Marx Brothers, part Vic Reeves.

This Dream, then, is a riotous jukebox musical, with cheesy pop classics by Lady Gaga, Kylie and Abba rearranged as showtunes a la Glee by a fantastic band drawn from the cast under the guidance of musical director Sarah De Tute. If this sounds too camp for some, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Leonard Cohen are also in the mix, though an opportunity to go big on Iggy Pop during Helena's frankly filthy spaniel speech is sadly missed.

There is some fine acting on show, with Beth Marshall going from strength to strength as Hippolyta and Titania, Robert Elkin making a saucily arch Puck and Nicole Cooper lending Helena a rarely explored comic raunchiness.Top marks, though, go to Stephen Clyde, whose self-deluding Bottom has the vanity of Tony Hancock in The Rebel in a none-stop barrage of slickly realised comic business that makes this pocket-sized Dream much bigger than its parts.

The Herald, June 28th 2011

ends

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