"Brilliant Fast Paced Truncated Shakespeare"
by Paul Ackroyd on 06/08/17

Midsummer Night's Dream fantasy quality makes it tempting vehicle for a "imaginative" interpretations. So there is always a feeling of some foreboding when entering the theatre for a new production as to what on earth... or sometimes not on earth.. the director will have decided to do with it.. What a pleasant surprise therefore to see UNFOLD Theatres production currently playing at the Rose Bankside.

For while the overall setting was a fairground illustrated by coloured lights, games as the audience entered and two extremely large plastic ducks floating over the archaeological site this was a refreshingly conventional production largely free from gimmicks and updated dialogue . The costuming was modern and the text had had to be substantially truncated to fit within the 90 minutes running time required by the constraints of the Rose site.

The cutting had been intelligently done by the director Alex Pearson and although we lost some of the poetry and the verbal delights of the longer dialogue what remained was an extremely tight, fast paced telling of the original story which was easy to follow and extremely amusing . The cast clearly understood the language and delivered it impeccably. It is invidious to pick out any particular actor in this universally talented cast, but from the moment he started speaking Ian Hathaway, who played both Theseus and Oberon , was a pleasure to listen to.

The cast all doubled playing two major parts which was very well handled and there was limited scope for confusion. Again it is invidious to make comparisons but I thought Sydney Aldridge was outstanding in the two large and contrasting parts of Helena and Bottom.

Alex Pearson's direction made the maximum use of the limited stage space at the Rose, be prepared for the actors to come and sit next to you or indeed on top of you, and made use of the whole space including the distant vista at the other side of the archaeological site, although the lighting for the reconciliation scene could have been brighter. There was no scenery used and minimal props. This was an excellent example of how so often in theatre less is more, leaving just the actors and the script; which was exactly the way Shakespeare wrote it.

The show runs until 26 August and with tickets at only £15 full price , I would venture that there is no better value theatre in London this summer.

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