A Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare
Monster Midsummer Mash Up
A joyful beginning to Emma Rice's tenure at The Globe for a gender-crossing xx best exotic Marigold xx A Midsummer Night's Dream where TLT and her garlanded companion found themselves groundlings in a wonderland just outside of Hoxton.
The tone is set from the start as tambourine-shaking parishioner Rita Quince (bespectacled Lucy Thackeray), in Globe volunteer uniform, clambers on the stage from white-tableclothed restaurant tables, introducing Nick Bottom (Ewan Wardrop) Health & Safety Officer.
Up above is the sitar-playing Sheema Mukherjee perched on a balcony and this parish has obviously now gone global in search of funding as is the wont of parishes nowadays ...
We must confess to loving AMND (as we will shorten it from now on) since having our first magical experience at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Not without it's Indian tinge too, since one of the co-directors was Kashmir-born David Conville (along with Richard Digby-Day, a partnership still it seems going strong, and Christopher Biggins!) But at the time we were chiefly excited by seeing pre-Big Brother, post Rock Follies Rula Lenska as Titania and Liver Bird Elizabeth Estensen as beanpole Helena.
Anyway fast forward to the present!
*End of Flashback Alert!*
It's a hybrid AMND (hold on to that acronym!), a trifle self-conscious but none the worse for that. A cross between Bollywood, 1960s' Performance (without the gore), Sgt Pepper, Ugly Betty, trademark Kneehigh puppetry and aerial flourishes (although also playful gestures to Peter Brook's legendary "Empty Space" AMND with Alan Howard and Sara Kestelman)
Fresh from the "blow up sex doll" Measure for Measure (doncha just love the TLT blog archive, just to be able to say and link to that?! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, broadsheets!;)), Zubin Varla is a middle-aged Indian Mick-Jagger-type (parentheses and acronym alert, wait a moment Mick Jagger is now an OAP!) gangster cum restaurateur cum Duke Theseus.
He has captured the initially Scottish Hippolyta (Meow Meow clad in leopard skin slinky dress and coat) from a rival although she, by the end of the play, having brought her stilletos to the conference table, changes nationality.
A Glasto Indian sixth-former Hermia (AnjanaVasan) and an indy Brit wannabe Kerouac cum Brando cum Calvin Klein pecs' Lysander (Edmund Derrington) plan to elope. While a Brooks Brothers' (we really should get sponsorship for this!) ambitious smoothie Demetrius (Ncuti Gatwa), rather sinister in setting his sights on Hermia, is pursued by his old flame (and first aider - don't ask, go see!) Helenus (no. it's not a spelling error, it's Ankur Bahl!).
Bottom is the male cock of the walk surrounded by lady volunteers (*Minor Quibble Alert* he could insure he has a few all-eventualities' put-downs for good-natured heckles when he poses rhetorial questions to the audience!).
And they are a comely bunch of variously talented am dram menials from Bottom's vainglorious would-be Olivier, via Snout's (Alex Tregear) ingeniously "wittiest partition" cereal packet wall to the rather proficient Thisbe/Flute (a hard call to make clear an amateur is really rather good but Margaret Ann Bain pulls it off).
But wait - we can't forget the faerie world and mischieviously Puckish (surely a tautology?!) Puck (Katy Owen) - part Pinocchio, part Tinker Bell - who also transforms herself into stern father in a wheelchair Egeus cum gangsta ?music producer with Sophia Loren sunglasses.
Voodoo zombie fairies (Nandi Bhebhe, also Metro-reading Starveling) and Cobweb (Tibu Fortes), amongst others, do Oberon and Titania's bidding with Varla and Meow as is usual doubling up the royal roles.
We're past the time of phrases such as "unashamedly populist" (why should it be anything else?). There have been enough updatings and adaptations of Shakespeare to make even a Globe in-joke about "fidelity to text" a wee bit dépassé when it's now broadcast in your own series or be damned in the groves of academe. But it's all none the worse for that.
Maybe Bottom's transformation into an ass scene - seen by your Pen and Tell twosome in broad daylight - could have been more magical but, again, that's a minor quibble (we've had enough of alerts - once used they're no longer a novelty!).
A great bubble of laughter and little toots of pleasure from TLT's sidekick engulfed The Globe (with even a bit of Bowie and was that a touch of cod Sondheim?!) in this first production of a new regime. Tanika Gupta's lyrics and dramaturgy including a smidgeon of John Donne acknowledging the new Globe's American origins and Stu Barker's music prove charming crowd pleasers.
So we take away a green light served up by The Globe's "wedding special" menu and wish the happy coupling well!