Theatre/Comedy, TheSpace on Niddry St, Venue 9, 22:00 until 29th August.
Having tackled Shakespeare’s most renowned tragedy, Gin and Tonic productions returns for its second Fringe show to confront the Bard’s most popular comedy, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The company certainly likes a challenge, and this year’s production sees them rise to it once again with exceptional energy and skill. Condensed into one memorable hour, Gin and Tonic’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy is sharp, professional and thoroughly entertaining.
Minimalist staging results in a show held up entirely by the performance of its talented cast. Particularly notable for his performance is Joe McArdle, whose approach to Bottom is fresh, nuanced and highly amusing – in the same way as the character he plays dominates over the Mechanicals (to hilarious effect), it seems fair to say that McArdle himself steals this show. Also highly commendable is Brian Gilbert (Egeus/Puck), who commands the stage with remarkable agility and a fitting air of confidence and cunning. However, whilst some individuals shine particularly brightly, it is ultimately the way in which the entire cast work so seamlessly off one another that makes this play work. Helena (Sarah Lamb) and Hermia’s (Emily Deans) quarrel, playing on Hermia’s sensitivity about her height, and the comic rapport between Bottom (McArdle) and his senseless sidekick, Starveling (Paddy Wilmott) are particular highlights.
The crux of Shakespeare’s play of love, deception and reverie lies in the interplay between Athenian reality and enchanted woodland fantasy, a particular strength of this production. Fairies, clad in white and adorned with fluorescent yellow paint, glide across the stage in an impressive display of physical theatre. Set in direct opposition are the Athenian lovers, who, with their distinctly human fopperies (Lysander, for example, is the classic tourist, decked out with map and front-strapped rucksack), find themselves pawns in Puck and Oberon’s games.
Through literal audience engagement (at one point, Puck takes off one audience member’s shoe, whilst another finds Helena’s arms wrapped around his knee) and a highly credible performance from a very talented cast, Gin and Tonic productions invites its audience into the reverie that it creates, making us believe that we have indeed “but slumber’d here”.
Image courtesy of Mihaela Bodlovic