In a New ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ Darkness and Wonder


LONDON — This summer time will see no fewer than 5 productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in and round London. But I intend no disrespect to the others after I guess that Nicholas Hytner’s immersive manufacturing on the Bridge Theater is unlikely to be equaled. The play runs by means of Aug. 31 and will probably be broadcast in film theaters all over the world through NT Live on Oct. 17.

Mr. Hytner, a two-time Tony winner, has taken on a canonical favourite that generally feels as if it’s being accomplished out of obligation — however not right here. Like the “Julius Caesar” that final yr was the primary runaway success of the brand new playhouse that Mr. Hytner runs, this “Dream” has been staged with no seats within the stalls, or orchestra stage, in order that viewers members can comply with the motion on foot. The theater’s traditional tiered seating stays in place.

However you select to expertise it, the manufacturing brings out each the darkness and the surprise on this multifaceted play. Mr. Hytner and a massive forged led by the “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie conjure afresh a narrative that threatens dying from the very begin. That is the destiny which will befall the feisty younger lover Hermia (Isis Hainsworth) if she is not going to marry Demetrius (Paul Adeyafa), as her father needs, when she would fairly be with Lysander (Kit Young). Bleating “let me go, you’re pathetic,” Tessa Bonham Jones’s emotionally wayward Helena completes an anxious quartet of suitors in hormonal overdrive.

Once these lustful characters enter the magic wooden, the designer Bunny Christie turns the versatile Bridge house into a foliage-strewn panorama of platforms that rise out of the ground as if, properly, in a dream. (In preserving with the carnal nature of the play, there are beds on lots of them.)

The present makes use of the total top of the theater, with trapezes permitting the play’s fairies to cavort like Cirque du Soleil acrobats and additionally showcasing the abilities of an particularly astonishing Puck, performed by the fast-rising actor David Moorst: This quicksilver sprite is right here seen as a reckless determine of anarchy and of compassion, too, when he extends a misshapen hand towards the viewers on the finish in a gesture of connection. The sound design folds Beyoncé and rap into the combo, whereas honoring Shakespeare’s verse at each flip. The result’s a uncommon “Dream” able to delighting purists and newbies alike.

No Shakespeare is full lately, or so it appears, with out a gender swap of some kind, and I’m reluctant to disclose the specifics right here. Suffice it to say that Gwendoline Christie, who’s first seen suspended in a cage, in a forbidding picture of entrapment, cuts an imposing determine as two queens — Hippolyta and Titania — making their manner fastidiously by means of a polyamorous panorama. (The rival male lovers steal a clinch with one another.)

Oliver Chris is each stern and cheeky as required of his personal twin royal roles: the ramrod-stiff duke Theseus and a notably libidinous fairy king, Oberon. The “Pyramus and Thisbe” play-within-the-play is fantastically led by Hammed Animashaun as a sweet-faced Bottom: His troupe of working-class actors uncover that they fairly like this newfound factor known as artwork. In that manner, these burgeoning thespians are in sync with a model of the play that Mr. Hytner and his workforce have refashioned very particularly from the bottom up.

Peaceful coexistence is harder in “Europe,” the transfixing 1994 play by the Scottish playwright David Greig that has been chosen by the director Michael Longhurst to begin his first season as the artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse. (The play runs through Aug. 10.)

While this may sound like a play for the Brexit age, it is actually set during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And yet the writing speaks to the here and now in its depiction of, among other things, refugees who come up against an emboldened far-right movement. “Europe” may be the name on the poster, but this story is being told the world over.

You could imagine a well-intentioned treatise on this topic, but Mr. Longhurst finds a theatricality that animates the collision of cultures. Don’t be put off by the subpar Brecht of the dreary location-setting chorus that is sung at the start; the play picks up momentum as its finely drawn array of characters come into focus.

It is heartening to witness the same-sex relationship that develops between the young refugee Katia (Natalia Tena) and Adele (Faye Marsay, excellent), a married employee at the forgotten railway station of a ground-down border town somewhere in Europe. Katia’s father, Sava (Kevork Malikyan, in an immensely touching performance), finds an unanticipated ally in an underemployed stationmaster, Fret (Ron Cook), who concedes that the place he inhabits is little more than “a blur from the train.”

Neither of these older men can contain the ramped-up volatility of various thugs, with little time for outsiders, who include Faye’s increasingly desperate husband, Berlin (Billy Howle), a malcontent filled with rage at his loveless and jobless life. The climax comes with a scenic coup from the accomplished designer Chloe Lamford that sends the world of the play crashing down. How do we emerge from the wreckage and move on? There’s a question guaranteed to haunt playgoers as they make their way to wherever they call home.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Bridge Theater, through Aug. 31; National Theater Live broadcast on Oct. 17.
Europe. Directed by Michael Longhurst. Donmar Warehouse, through Aug. 10.



Source link Nytimes.com

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