A Midsummer Night’s Dream | The Bridge Theatre
If you are in London this summer, you have probably noticed that a lot of companies are doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I saw the Bridge’s version and I would definitely recommend it. This is a funny, magical and modern twist on the play.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy which follows two sets of characters; the Athenians and the fairies who come down to Earth and interfere with the human world.
The play swiftly introduces us to the lovers; Hermia and Lysander who love each other, Demetrius who loves Hermia (and has her father’s blessing) and Helena who loves Demetrius.
Hermia is given an ultimatum; she must marry Demetrius or become a nun. So she and Lysander decide to run away instead, through the forest, where Athenian law can’t touch them. She tells Helena who, for reasons beyond human understanding, tells Demetrius.
Meanwhile, in fairyland, the King and Queen of the fairies are fighting. Where the world of Athenians is dull and grey, the forest is lit by green and the fairies all dress in colourful costumes with sequins and flowers, silk and gold.
In the original play, King Oberon orders the fairy Puck to seek a flower that will act as a love potion in order to trick Queen Titania into falling in love with a beast – this will humiliate her. Puck the trickster transforms the mortal, Bottom, into a donkey and plies Titania with the potion.
In this version, however, Oberon and Titania’s roles are reversed and Oberon falls in love with Bottom. This could have been done in poor taste with the gay romance being the source of the humour. However, the humour comes from the actor, Oliver Chris’ shift from being the strict, vengeful fairy to the infatuated lover.
Puck also uses the flower on the comes across the Athenians in the woods, twisting and mixing up who is in love with whom who and things soon get out of hand.
There’s also a side plot featuring a terrible acting troupe who are rehearsing a play for Duke Theseus and his fiancee, Hippolyta’s, upcoming wedding, Bottom being one of the actors.
Like my last trip to The Bridge, we had promenading pit tickets which works so well for the staging and makes it feel immersive.
Small bits of ad-libbing from the actors; from Puck moving through the audience and telling people to move out of his way to Bottom asking the audience for a calendar, taking someone’s phone and then taking a ‘self-portrait’ on it.
The fairies doing aerial silk acrobatics throughout the show, casually spinning and turning upside down as they recited Shakespeare. Brilliant.
Oberon and Bottom getting into bed together, the bed then encircling the pit to the sounds of Beyoncé’s Love on Top before the interval.
There is a play within the play in Dream featuring the bad actors. This is a bit dull to read, but performed it got all of the laughs and fit much better.
There is a 20-minute interval during the show but promenading tickets are tiring because there isn’t that much movement.
The play within the play was definitely better placed but it does feel like it’s cut and pasted from a different work. (This is more a criticism of the original text, I know.)
The Bridge Theatre is located opposite Tower Bridge and outside there is some lovely green space. As it’s summer at the moment there are food and drink stalls – including a teapot-shaped stall selling Pimms!
The staging at the Bridge is unique in that the entire standing area is the stage, where parts rise in units. The audience is directed to move away from these rising units and there is a lot of movement in the performance. Getting promenading tickets makes for a really interesting experience!
(Plus as someone who is short, it means I just have to make sure I’m at the front or shift out of the way of the inevitable tall person to see the performance properly!)
As you enter the theatre, there is an open space with tables and seats ahead and the ticket desk and food/drink till to the right, it is a nice area to chill out in before the show.
For Dream the Bridge had an Instagram-trap wall. It was covered in purple flowers with quotes from the play for you to hold up and take pictures which I obviously did. They also sold flower crowns during the interval which I kinda wish I’d bought.