Bizarrely diverse musical interludes including a Gaudeamus chant, beautiful singing by Melanie Pappenheim, and Aerosmith’s Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing (hilariously rendered by Leo Bill’s Bottom) break through an otherwise noiseless space. Whether lovers, players or fairies, the entire ensemble stay on the stage, watching the reflection of the heady vision. And while some of Hill-Gibbins’s choices provide new clarity to the piece, many of them are clear as mud.
The players’ scenes are where we find the usual laughs, but here they also provide much-needed levity in an otherwise sombre forest. Bill is brilliantly nerdy as Bottom, a sort of earnest but aged rocker. And Aaron Heffernan’s Francis Flute is a parody of sporty masculinity in all the right ways. But it’s Sam Cox’s Robin Starveling that steals the show: a deadly sober moon that riotously shines brightest over the rest.
However, the mirth is lost with the lovers as they traipse and even wrestle through the mud. What is usually a high spirited scene as both men fight for Helena (Anna Madeley) slowly trudges along. And with little colour or nuance in the relationships between them, the decision to depict Lysander (John Dagleish) forcing himself on Hermia (Jemima Rooper) felt cheap and unnecessary.
Perhaps there is a sense that Hill-Gibbins is demonstrating a world of masculine authority, a cruelty in the comedy that brings about a much darker resolution than normal. But it’s an idea that is at best half-developed, much like the final visual offering of the play.
Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick. Audacious and irreverent, but not quite fresh, this Hill-Gibbins’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has brilliant moments. But these are eclipsed by some perplexing choices that make murky this Shakespearean fantasy.
'It's less dream, more nightmare': Click here to read our interview with Jemima Rooper
|What||A Midsummer Night's Dream, Young Vic review:|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Southwark (underground)|
17 Feb 17 – 01 Apr 17, Matinee performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays; no shows on Sundays
|Price||£10 – £36|
|Website||Click here for more information|