Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)

A Chekov International Theatre Festival/Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory/School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production. Part of World Shakespeare Festival 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my all time favourite plays, but having said that, I know it’s because of the sheer inventiveness it encourages. Directors, choreographers, musicians and actors have a wonderful time performing a play that’s loosely based on what the author, William Shakespeare, wrote.

At the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Dmitry Krymov’s production, missing out almost all of the Midsummer Night’s Dream script, was looser than most. As my companion pointed out the director, Dmitry Krymov, was first a set designer – and didn’t it show?

The production concentrates on the mechanicals play, Pyramus and Thisbe. It starts with the cast of mechanicals in the audience trying to bring on their set of branches. Front row seats, end of row seats can see you joining the cast without either audition or equity card. Then they get themselves onto the stage and we catch our first view of Venya the Jack Russell. Venya proved very popular with the audience and the man behind me gave his wife a running commentary of what the dog was thinking – clever that!

Next the audience within the play arrives and seats themselves around the front of the stage and in the boxes. Much slapstick humour follows as they break flimsy barriers and inadvertantly throw rubbish over each other. Their running commentary is full of humour and spot on one liners. (I wonder if the man behind me was the writer?)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream lends itself to pantomime and circus skills and the cast were great. Acrobatics abounded and the way they manoeuvred the giant puppets of Pyramus and Thisbe jaw-droppingly accurate. Traditional acting wasn’t neglected, however, and the new play had a believable inner tension. There were three lovely voices, some instrumental work and the final effect of the dance.

I didn’t expect the dance of the swans, but it was just right.

I counted around 40 performers on stage for the final bow, every one a winner. Oh, and my companion appreciated the question and answer piece in the  programme. Nothing like a bit of de-mystification to help one appreciate what’s going on.