I like to think I know my Dreams, having seen some stunning productions in the past – so I was excited to see that Regent’s Park would be staging it this year in rep with Ragtime, having never been disappointed by their productions in the past. Sadly, this production did not live up to previous expectations by any means.
We’re welcomed by a caravan, mobile home and crane - the land of the gypsies. This does work with mixed success, it’s one of the few ways of having a modern day set-up where a father could possibly just about get away with killing his daughter. The setting also gives a good excuse for some harmless fighting between the two chaps at the top of the show.
Costumes were well thought out on the whole; fairies were wearing woollen dress, the lovers modern day and the mechanicals in high-vis jackets, as you do. Hermia’s costume is a continuous attention seeker, clearly far too short a dress for Hayley Gallivan to be comfortable with (I lost count of the adjustments) and becoming increasingly ripped throughout her forest dwelling.
This production was built on gimmicks, the worst of which being act 5 as a whole – we are now watching a Channel 4 documentary, complete with an exaggerated wedding dress for Hippolyta and a lot of dancing. I realise the cast are capable of singing (for they double as the Ragtime company), however past 10pm on a chilly evening we do not really need to hear 10 or so minutes of song pertaining no bearing to the play at all.
The one advantage of a long production is the ability to see James Farncombe’s striking lighting design, one thing outdoor productions generally overlook and I’m pleased to say this one didn’t.
The mechanicals were a real low point, director Matthew Dunster seemingly didn’t direct their scenes, the usually excellent rehearsal barely raised a snigger from the audience. The sung-through final performance was another lovely chance for the actors to demonstrate their vocal talents but completely illogical (especially to the tune of “So Long, Farewell” and “It’s Not Unusual” amongst others). Also, why this had to be followed by a medley of various cultural hits I have no idea.
It really felt as if the play was just there to facilitate the gimmicks. I’ve barely scratched the surface of those here but they include a graphic mating scene between Bottom and Titania (the latter ending up topless).
Some people clearly enjoyed the performance, personally the text in itself is rich enough to sustain the comedy. However, I do not think that any of the laughs in this production came from the script. It’s a shame – Dream outside in these gardens could have been a wonderful experience, I couldn’t have left quick enough.
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By Daniel Whitley @DanielWhit
In rep until 5th September 2012
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London, NW1.