A Midsummer Night's DROLL
- David Kettle
- 6 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Underground 17th-century Shakespeare could do with more rowdiness
You get a brief history lesson before this entertaining show from Cambridge-founded the Owle Schreame. When Cromwell banned theatre in 1642, it just went underground, and out-of-work actors put on half-remembered, semi-improvised, half-drunken shows (dubbed drolls) in pubs and taverns, often bawdy, rowdy updates of the stuff they'd previously done – like, for instance, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
It's a shame, then, that this enthusiastic, appropriately rough-around-the-edges production doesn't quite live up to its introduction. It's the Dream almost as we know it, but with lovers and royals virtually excised, and focused instead on the Rude Mechanicals and fairy storylines. And while there's plenty of fun to be had in joining in with the show's musical numbers (instruments craftily supplied) and with admiring the homespun costumes and intentionally amateurish acting, it could do with its intensity turning up and comic details being tighter for the show to become truly captivating rather than simply diverting.
Owle Schreame artistic director Brice Stratford has a good time as a Boris-like Bottom, but is a bit too well-mannered to capture the weaver's roughness, and the rest of the five-strong cast (including a last-minute stand-in playing the Wall) are committed and energetic. It's a rewarding glimpse into a little-known, barely remembered form, which, as Stratford explains, led directly to music hall and today's stand-up. But it could do with more raucous, unbridled energy to make it properly compelling.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 26 Aug (not 13), 10.45am, £8–£9 (£7–£8).