A Midsummer Night's Dream (3 stars)


Botanical Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 14 Jul


Just as Freud’s Oedipal theories altered the modern perception of Hamlet, his dream theories exert a powerful influence on this Shakespearean classic. Freud professed that dreams were a manifestation of forbidden thoughts and unconscious desires. Director Gordon Barr highlights this in his latest version by casting each actor in multiple parts, reflecting the multiple facets of human desire and overlapping the three worlds of the play, all in one dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream needs little introduction, having long been a regular of rep companies and site-specific fans alike. This version explores the familiar world of the lovers, mechanicals and fairies, through Puck’s (Ewan Donald) eyes, as they undertake their magical caper through the woods where enemies fall in (and out) of love, an actor transforms into an ass and the fairy kingdom clashes over an Indian changeling boy. It’s all played out in the splendid surroundings of the Botanical Gardens on a summer’s night, but bear in mind this is a Glasgow summer’s night, so wrap up warm and take a flask of tea, soup or Buckfast.

Faced with its second outing in five years at Bard in the Botanics, you can’t help but wonder why revert to a site-specific staple, unless of course Barr truly has something new to say. He does explore this done-to-death classic in a new light, mainly through the eyes of Puck who draws us into his world where, for once, he holds the power to manipulate his players. This subversion of power is what makes this dream different. By double or triple casting the other actors Puck becomes the only constant. Even the normally all-powerful king of the fairies, Oberon (John Macaulay), becomes almost animalistic and sub-human, propelled by base desires, another mere pawn in Puck’s cunning game.

The other characters remain fairly conventional, if well performed, interpretations of Shakespeare’s text, apart from Egeus, Theseus and Hippolyta, who are represented both by Puck and disembodied voices over loudspeakers, maybe a rather convenient solution to the logistics of a minimal cast. Sarah Paulley’s seemingly predictable set becomes clearer as the play progresses; she’s created three distinct pieces using different materials; a metal ladder, a soft hammock and a climbing net, perhaps reflecting Barr’s exploration of the three interlinking worlds. It’s an energetic, entertaining production but for those already familiar with this play in performance let your conscious and subconscious battle it out between cost and cold versus new concept.

(Greer Ogston)

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

730 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 0UE

A great place to relax in summer or take a brisk walk in winter, with a programme of events including stargazing, gardening talks and even theatre. Also look out for exotics and exhibitions in Kibble Palace Glasshouse and the vegetable, herb and flower…

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