Entertainment & Arts

A Midsummer Night's Dream impresses critics at the Globe

Zubin Varla as Oberon and Meow Meow as Titania Image copyright Steve Tanner
Image caption Zubin Varla as Oberon and Meow Meow as Titania

Emma Rice has kicked off her reign as artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe with a "modern mash-up" of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The production, which stars cabaret artist Meow Meow as Titania, has largely impressed the critics.

Although there has been some controversy about Rice's use of artificial lighting.

"Purists may wish to head for the hills," observed the Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish.

The audience on Thursday's opening night was greeted outside by a "magical forest" of trees with metallic leaves.

Image copyright Steve Tanner
Image caption Meow Meow (Titania) and Nandi Bhebhe (First Fairy) in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Meanwhile, the interior of the replica Elizabethan playhouse was transformed into a wedding venue, with circular tables dotted around the standing area under a canopy of giant orbs.

Rice's gender-swapping production turns Helena into a gay man called Helenus (Ankur Bahl) while the "rude mechanicals" are a largely female group of Globe ushers, headed by Rita Quince (Lucy Thackeray).

"Presiding over the mischief is Katy Owen's petite Puck, bedecked in a combination of hot-pants and Elizabethan doublet and ruff and squirting a water-pistol," continued Cavendish in his four-star review.

"Much fun and games, then, but also seriousness, sadness, and troubling madness. The watching school-parties were transfixed. And I was too. Result!"

The Guardian's Lyn Gardner, in a three-star review, said the play - despite many "fast and furious" gags - never fully tapped into any sense of the enchanted.

"For the first production in what has been dubbed The Wonder Season, this lacks a genuine sense of wonder and magic. There are times when, for all its exuberant gleefulness and merry laughter, it seems a tad charmless. Less could be more."

Image copyright Steve Tanner
Image caption Ewan Wardrop plays Bottom in Emma Rice's production

The Stage's four star review described Emma Rice's inaugural production "a bit of a ground-shaker".

"This is living theatre," said Natasha Tripney, "hot-blooded and hot-bodied, a production that feels utterly at home in the space while also challenging people's perceptions of what the Globe is for."

Whatsonstage.com's Daisy Bowie-Sell said the show was "a total hoot" and would "appeal to anyone who likes a bit of magic and a good party".

Rice, she went on, was "here to shake things up, mess with our heads, get us stamping our feet and clapping our hands so that the rumbles from the Globe can be felt all the way to Tower Bridge".

A Midsummer Night's Dream is at Shakespeare's Globe, London until 11 September.

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