A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Botanical Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 9 Jul (4 stars)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Botanical Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 9 Jul

Gordon Barr's outdoor production retains its Shakespearean sparkle

First things first: it is a bit of a shame that this year’s opening production for the 10th anniversary programme of Bard in the Botanics has been consigned to a small corner at the rear of the Kibble Palace. While the cast work as hard as ever and the pink curtain at the back of the stage shimmers and sparkles, Gordon Barr’s show does miss the different levels and vistas offered by the gardens, regardless of the weather.

The good news is that, if there was ever a Shakespeare play you would want to huddle together for warmth with strangers in front of, it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And this is a particularly warming production that takes delight in the absurdity of the scenario, setting the tale of two pairs of young lovers and a troupe of actors who are toyed with by fairy folk, in a kind of 1920s nightclub where bright young things mingle with decadent cabaret performers.

Barr’s inspired innovation is to turn the comedy into a jukebox musical of classics by the likes of Lady Gaga, Kylie and Abba. For a play about love and the vagaries of sexuality you couldn’t find a more fitting soundtrack, and while not all the musical interludes tie in seamlessly with the action, there are some lovely moments, notably a moving rendition of ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ by the hapless Helena, nicely played by Nicole Cooper.

There are undeniably moments when one or two members of the cast – which includes a cluster of young talents from the RSAMD – seem a little hesitant and under-rehearsed, but the leads are mostly excellent, with the broadly comic, absurdly tender scenes between Bottom (Stephen Clyde) and Titania (Beth Marshall) somehow magicking away the nip in the air.

Botanical Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 9 Jul.

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