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Midsummer Mechanicals

by on 8 August 2022

Dream Awakening to Shakespeare

Midsummer Mechanicals

by Kerry Frampton and Ben Hales, after William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Globe and Splendid Productions, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 21st August

Review by Emma Byrne

Well, I’m going to start this review with a confession – I love the Globe.  I love the imperfect illusion of stepping back in time.  It’s not just the occasion contrail puffing lazily apart above the thatch, or the shriek of a slowing train on the approach to London Bridge.  It’s the audience: the way we sometimes approach Shakespeare with reverence or fear, depending on the teachers we were lucky – or unlucky – enough to have.

So I mean it sincerely when I say: Midsummer Mechanicals feels like the most Shakespearean show I’ve ever seen at the Globe.  It’s not so much that the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse encloses you, TARDIS-like, and whisks you away from the modern bustle of Bankside, it’s that the audience of young families arrives with none of the baggage, and all of the enthusiasm, for a wild, gripping, hilarious, anarchic show in which they, too, can play their part.

Kerry Frampton is heavily invested in this show as co-writer, with Ben Hales, and as co-director with Lucy Cuthbertson.  Moreover, she plays Bottom in a performance that reminds me of the heady days when Mark Rylance transformed between Hamlet and Olivia.  Frampton takes the space and makes it her own to command – deftly weaving the audience into the show. 

Frampton is brilliantly supported by Melody Brown as Patience Snout.  As a foil to Bottom’s self-importance, Patience gives merry licence to the audience to laugh.  Jamal Franklin’s nervy Quince and Sam Glen’s “call-my-agent” turn as Flute create a brilliantly balanced quartet, with energy levels that simply crackle.

We saw the show with our 6 and 8 year olds, neither of whom have had much induction to Shakespeare, and they absolutely loved it.  They loved the jokes about being actors.  They loved being told to use their imaginations.  They loved the physical comedy (Flute casting a spell on Bottom is a stunningly well sold bit) and the wordplay.

For an older audience there is plenty of fan service – the quoting and misquoting of Shakespeare’s own lines, the meta commentary on the ending A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and an exit, pursued by a bear.

If you want a joyful, warm-hearted take on drama as Shakespeare understood it, then see this show.  If you want a hilarious, absorbing introduction to Shakespeare to inoculate the 5-11 year olds in your life against future Shakespeare-phobia then see this show.  And if you like bottom jokes, pratfalls and two hours of fun and wonder then please, I implore you, see this show.

Emma Byrne, August 2022

Photography by Manuel Harlan

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