A Midsummer Night’s Dream always benefits from being played outdoors. Probably that’s where it originally was set, in an aristocratic garden. Moonlight and fresh air are its natural habitat.
And any of Shakespeare’s plays benefit from being produced by Adrian Noble, now in his fourth and final season as the Old Globe Theatre’s summer maven.
The director of the present Globe Dream, Ian Talbot, has made the show very much his own but he stands on the firm ground of certain now-familiar Noble principals: Diction, clarity, solid casting, an appropriate distribution of fun, wonder and solemnity.
The fairies are a scruffy lot who gibe and mutter in gangs of lurking voyeurs as Titania builds her castles of words, in the lush, velvet voice of Krystel Lucas, who is regally eloquent of posture and pose in the other half of her double-casting, the vanquished Queen Hippolyta.
Puck has mercifully been toned down and Lucas Hall makes him less a toy of caprice than a contentious employee to Jay Whittaker’s weird and pushy Oberon. (Doubling as Theseus of Athens, Whitaker is a much more satisfactory mortal monarch, vain but just.) This more likeable puck is rewarded by an increased dalliance with Titania’s chief fairy, played all juicy and uproarious by the excellent Danielle O’Farrell.
Miles Anderson is a more delicate and melancholy Bottom than most, though nuances abound, and Charles Janasz as Peter Quince heads a generally satisfactory, if indistinct, band of rude mechanicals.
One of the aspects that make Dream such a masterpiece is its dark undercurrents of lust and derision. They who play the four young Athenian lovers must deal with these restless demands while balancing the burden of presumed virginity and a subtle individuality, which can lead an undisciplined actor into choices that threaten the essential balance.
I am pleased to report that Winslow Corbett and Ryman Sneed play Hermia and Helena, respectively, as if to the manner born while hunky Nic Few as Demetrius and impatient Adam Gerber as Lysander emphasize with their differences the leveling power of young lust.
Ralph Funicello’s spacious and neutral set for the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre is yet another solid job by this old favorite and Alan Burrett blends his lighting resources superbly. But I question Deirdre Clancy’s costuming. Somehow, nothing seems exactly right. The period is vaguely European comic opera, quite acceptable, but each outfit reads random and unrelated. Bottom’s faceless donkey head is even wrong (though that may be prop rather than costume). It’s as if the rude mechanicals were told, when they finished dressing “Pyramus and Thisbe,” to do everyone else.
There are similar problems with Dan Moses Schreier’s music, which hovers between Star Trek and salon favourites; the clunky fairy choreography (James Vasquez is credited with “movement”); and those fright wigs for the fairies.
Talbot’s fresh and fruitful staging, however, is sufficiently loaded with delights to survive décor distractions with genial ease.
Quite, in other words, appropriate to the Adrian Noble Era.