When the Brits do Shakespeare it’s probably the way that it ought to be done. This includes an intrusion on the way to our seats with an ‘audition’ taking place in the audience administered by Lucy Tuck, one of the dozen ensemble members who bring the Bard to life. A pre-show romp included the cast mingling with the audience, yelling back and forth and having a good old time. The stage is set with a multitude of props and the Bristol Old Vic Company has, literally brought their own ‘boards’ with them creating the playing space. Echos of the physical theatre of Grotowsky and the imagination of Peter Brook, who brought the play to the Ahmanson years ago, abound.
Director Tom Morris in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company (responsible for the puppet horses in Warhorse last year) create the play in a multicultural and fantastical way. The fairies are brought to life with agitprop puppets and gusto. We meet the Mechanicals early on, bombastically planning their Pyramus and Thisbe. Miltos Yerolemou as Bottom, along with compatriots Saikat Alhamed (Snug), Colin Michael Carmichael (Quince), Fionn Gill (Snout) and Christopher Keegan (Flute) energize the production leading up to the their own hilarious theatrical presentation at the end of the play as the tricks on the earthly lovers by David Ricardo-Pearce (Oberon/Theseus) and Saskia Portway (Hippolyta /Titania) are resolved.
Vicki Mortimer’s design for the stage; with the fabrication and design of Handspring is appropriately magical and ethereal. Brilliant use of garden tools combine to create mischievous Puck (played by three actors (Lucy Tuck, Fionn Gill and Saikat Alhamed) who disassembles and reassembles magically about the stage. The magical forest created by the ensemble, each with a wooden plank, morphingly changes scenes flawlessly.
The confused lovers, Naomi Cranston (Helena), Alex Felton (Lysander), Hermia (Akiya Henry) and Kyle Lima (Demetrius) rollick in and out of love manipulated by the fairies with physical abandon. Only these characters remain resolute while the rest of the cast transforms smoothly at the drop of a hat. This is an ensemble piece. These actors are all trained for the stage: movement, voice and presence. It’s the present and genuine quality of the actors that most impresses. Almost indefinable, each person in his turn is available through the myriad of characters to bring the words and the joy of this favorite play to life. One of many memorable interludes must be Bottom’s evolution into an ass. Shades of Warhorse blossom, as well as Bottom’s bottom in a fantastical take on this unforgettable part of the play.
Renew your acquaintance with the story and then, make a promise to see Shakespeare done the way the Bard would have appreciated his story to be told. It is a gift. It's bold and new and exceedingly well done.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
By William Shakespeare
Collaborated by The Bristol Old Vic
and Handspring Puppet Company
The Broad Stage
1310 11th St. (At Santa Monica Blvd)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Through April 19, 2014
Tickets and information