Footsbarn's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Action-packed Big Top Shakespeare
This article is from 2008.
Making their first ever appearance at the Fringe, the travelling company that started life in a Cornish barn succeeds in proving that there's no such thing as too much when it comes to Shakespeare. Firmly entrenching the view of the Bard's comedies as packed full of convivial refreshment, this carnival production pushes its jolly tone to the limit with a visual vibrancy to rival even Peter Brook's circus spectacle.
The masked multicultural cast breathe new life into this familar tale, chasing the partner-swapping lovers into the forest where they encounter the feuding King and Queen of the Fairies, the mischievous Puck and the ever-lovable mechanicals and their guffawing mishaps.
This magical, weird, oft-revived work feels crafted especially for the big top atmosphere, the international cast infusing the production with a vivacious commedia dell'arte flavour as stock characters appear and disappear around the enchanting set. Resembling a flattened green foot punctured by a rusty nail, a gnarled old oak sprouts from the centre of the pedestal stage, transforming the circus arena into an Indo/Mongolian wonderland, aided by blue-lit musicians, who transport thoughts with sitars, mandolins and impish oboes.
The mechanicals – never more grotesque – almost steal the show with an honest humour that draws well-deserved laughter, though the forest comes to life most powerfully when inhabited by the fairies, who bring to mind a dark nightmare as imagined by Jim Henson.
As they occasionally struggle with the verse, the multi-lingual cast turn this affliction to their advantage, inserting non-English language passages. With no interval the show is perhaps a little long, with the pace noticeably dipping towards the finish, but there's enough colour and vibrant action here to keep even the most restless audience member focused on the action onstage.
Footsbarn's Big Top at Calton Hill, 623 3030, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 7.30pm, £15–£20 (£10–£12).