Monday, 14 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Sh*t-faced Shakespeare present A Midsummer Night's Dream - The Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Southampton.

In last night’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton, Jessica Brindle, performing Hermia, got absolutely sh*t-faced! The play commences with an introduction from the Compere, played by Lucy Farrar, who, dressed in sparkling gold leggings, reveals the current alcohol consumption of the chosen drunk. She then continues to immerse the audience in the show, handing out a bugle, a gong, and a big red button (euphemisms were implied). Each instrument was used as a device to get Hermia another drink so, as the night progressed, Brindle continued to get more and more drunk. This was hilarious to watch whilst utterly admirable to see each character adapt and improvise with full commitment to their character. No character was broken even during (many) moments of unexpected humour and this made the entire piece all the more impressive. Not only this, the story was told with fluency so even those with no Shakespearian understanding could follow the story.

From the offset it is quite clear who had been chosen to drink as the first scene opens with a dance from Demetrius, Hermia, Helena and Lysander. This sets up clear dynamics and introduces each character whilst illustrating who is drunk in a hilarious manner. It then jumps straight into dialogue which, although a few lines were fumbled, was mostly intact. The funniest part here was the improvisational quality of the scene. Each character embraced every bizarre thing coming out of Hermia’s mouth and continued to extend the humour whilst still speaking in Shakespearian dialect. This was very funny but also very witty and clever. All of the cast did this with ease and throughout the performance it became obvious that there were strong friendships within the group and a lengthy rehearsal process had taken place.

The set, similar to a Shakespearian set, was minimalistic with only three material tree figures creating a forest. Alongside this, there were no props which allowed a total focus on the action with no distractions. It also reduced accidents as even the trees got a batter from the drunkard Hermia! The lighting was also basic with slight distinctions between the forest and the kingdom.

The costumes ranged from classical dresses on Hermia and Helena to puck who wore green glitter converse, spandex leggings and a silk robe adorned with flowers from the forest. This was perfect for his character which was performed with so much energy and wit. He pushed the narrative, striving away from tangents created by the louche nature of the other central characters. This way he kept the clarity of performance and insured the audience fully understood the sometimes confusing plot. He used audience participation to illustrate the characters of Bottom and Titania which allowed the cast to remain small whilst still delivering the story. This was risky however it paid off creating a very effective and funny scene between an audience member and the actor.

One member of the audience was employed to hold a sick bucket and mop. Although the bucket was thankfully not needed, the mop was regularly used to clear up Hermia’s spillages which was hilarious creating a layered immersive styled piece of theatre. There was such a mixture of genres interpreted throughout the performance but this really brought the entire play together to make something completely unique.

After last night, I will 100% be watching Sh*t-faced Shakespeare again as soon as possible. They were utterly hilarious and heart-warming to watch. This was an absolutely wonderful way to spend my otherwise dull Sunday evening!

Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 13/10/19

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