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June, 2003
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The cast waiting on Mark's review of their performance.
The cast waiting on Mark's review of their performance.

This all male cast is true to the original performed in Shakespeares's when females were not allowed on the stage.

But what it lacked in female charms it more than made up for in artistic wizardry.


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A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
June 10-14
The Oxford Playhouse

By Mark Young

Shakespeare's best known Fantastic Comedy, combined with the superb creative direction of Edward Hall, produced one of the most memorable opening nights at the Oxford Playhouse in recent years.

This was my first experience of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" performed by an all male cast and the effect was stunning. Hall's company claim to be able to make Shakespeare accessible to a young audiences and here was the proof as a large outing of Oxfordshire schoolgirls watched in awe and later celebrated the final bows with rapturous applause along with the packed house.

On this evidence it is hardly surprising that Hall has tempted Kenneth Branagh to make his National Theatre debut in the title role of "Edmond" next month.

Michael Pavelka's eerie and spatial set, the drone of harmonicas and men dressed in tutus provides the backdrop for an innovative interpretation which draws very heavily on England's rich pagan tradition from the masquerades of Mummers plays to the rituals of Morris dancing. But what makes this interpretation so unique is how Hall manages to inject a quality of farce reminiscent of the Whitehall heyday of Brian Rix.

Shakespeare was keen to remind us that outside the machinations of courtly love a class war existed in this notional Athens as Bottom the weaver and Quince the carpenter plan to impress the "nobs" and stage the winning play.

Tony Bell steals the show as Bottom with his Pythonesque spin on the character that alludes to several of Eric Idle's and Graham Chapman's chracterisations while Chris Myles' masterful Quince draws on Michael Crawford's Frank Spencer.

I must also sing the praises of Simon Scardifield's Puck that had the audience in stitches and reminded me of Mickey Rooney's Hollywood interpretation. Speaking of Hollywood, Robert Hand's Helena has a remarkable likeness to Jack Lemmon in "Some Like it Hot". This is a must see if any tickets are available.

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