Theatre, Dance and Comedy
KAOS Dream at the Contact Theatre
Carol Hodge (show: 28/02/08)
It’s easy to roll eyes to news of yet another Shakespeare adaptation. The mere mention of a 'reworking' inspires fear in those of us who are looking for something fresh and exciting. How brilliant then that KAOS have proved me inexorably wrong.
Too often, Shakespeare is approached with excessive reverence, with directors tiptoeing around the sacred script, timidly suggesting that perhaps Oberon wears a leather jacket to ‘update’ the script.
Not so for KAOS director Xavier Leret, who has torn chunks out of A Midsummer Night's Dream, sprayed it with smut, farce and glitter and created a fresh masterpiece.
The language is still luscious with powerful sincerity where appropriate, but many lines are suddenly revealed as double entendres: after seeing this production, the relevance of the ‘wood’ and ‘magic herb’ has been indelibly updated in my mind.
Our setting is a dingy working class pub-cum-lapdancing joint, resplendent with cheap carpet, tattered leatherette booth, bar, optics and a mirrored pole dancing booth; the magical forest has become a faded 70s frieze behind the bar, the faerie ballads saucy cabaret numbers, the plucked lyre a full on live jazz band. Most pertinently, the main themes of the original play are brought to the fore, revealing the timeless nature of the story.
The characterisation is also highly inventive, and, on the whole, effective. Mat Fraser’s Puck is a snivelling scally, Titania a washed up drag queen, the Mechanicals become airheaded erotic dancers and Helena is a frumpy Jim Cartwright hard nose.
Energy and extreme physicality oozes out all over KAOS Dream. From Hermia’s gravity-defying poledancing, through Lysander and Demitrus’ almost-naked wrestling, to the constant leaps over and onto the 5ft high bartop, the action pulses with a manic fervour.
The slapstick comedy routines are expertly timed, and the smut so excessive that it bursts through the realms of taste and sanity into weird and wonderful absurdity.
Bottom’s transformation into a human ass, complete with eye-poppingly huge phallus, provides a prop for endless humour, and even when I tried to contain my sniggering at the arguably juvenile, steroid-fuelled Carry On comedy, I could not fail to warm to the inventiveness of the interpretation.
The vision is strong, courageous and highly modern and at least this evening, is thunderously successful with the audience. Xavier Leret has stretched a bold and bizarre idea to breaking point, and has been rewarded well for his efforts. In the world of Shakespearian adaptations, my conclusion is simple: He who dares, wins.
KAOS Dream runs at the Contact until Saturday 1 March
last updated: 29/02/2008 at 14:40