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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Three stars

TOWARDS the start of Shakespeare's comedy, the fairy queen Titania tells her lover Oberon how their quarrel has turned nature upside down. "The seasons alter," she says, and the "mazed world … knows not which is which." Much later, as the play nears its conclusion, would-be husband Demetrius confesses that his love for Hermia is now "melted as the snow".

Neither line usually catches the attention, but here in Matthew Lenton's production, both leap out. This particular Midsummer Night's Dream is set in the depths of winter: fairies in white toss snowflakes into the air, the "rude mechanicals" huddle in their overcoats and, at moments of greatest tension, blizzards blow up. To prove their mettle in front of Helena, rivals Demetrius and Lysander strip down to their bare chests in a feat of icy endurance.

It's an idea that minimises the play's sense of feverish midsummer madness, but replaces it with a vision of rebirth and renewal. With the return of sanity come spring flowers pushing through the frozen stage and the promise of a fertile future. The image is reinforced in a framing device, in which Jordan Young's excellent Bottom sits at his wife's hospital bedside, waiting for signs of recovery. The whole play is his dream – complete with the funny and surreal image of his fellow mechanicals doubling as fairies during his transformation into a donkey – and its resolution offers him personal hope.

Despite these arresting ideas – often realised with striking beauty on Kai Fischer's set – the production scores less well in making you care about the lovers. Dressed in primary colours, like extras from a 1970s sci-fi series, they do better at comedy than romance. Because we don't fall in love with them ourselves, their eventual union carries no special frisson.
© Mark Fisher, 2012

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