A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably the first rom-com ever written.
Shakespeare playfully pitches lovers of the real and supernatural worlds into a night of unbridled passion when anything can happen.
And at The Grove Theatre, Dunstable, on Thursday, it was almost a case of the passion getting the better of the enthusiastic young company whose key actors hurled themselves about the stage without any care or concern.
We’ll say that their exploits were exceptionally well-choreographed but I’m not so sure.
I should think by the end of the tour Oliver Gully, Jack Harding, Rochelle Parry and Kirsty Bruce will be nursing some spectacular bruises.
This version of one of the Bard’s most popular plays was set at the start of the Great War but you couldn’t really tell from the costumes.
Directors can, and do, take huge liberties with the piece as it’s so timeless.
The opening scene was a bit of a garbled mess with the actors hurtling through the dialogue like they had somewhere else to be. Most of what they said was also pretty unintelligible.
But they soon got into their stride and began to enjoy the performance.
It’s the comedy you remember most in the story. Bottom (superbly played by James Clifford) as an ambitious actor making an ass of himself, is turned into a magical ass and wooed by a fairy queen; and two sets of young lovers, falling in and out of love with each other in a riotous confusion of emotions.
There were a lot of students in on the night and it was clear they picked up on the slapstick humour more than the mysticism and magic of the story by one of the country’s greatest playwrights.
Certainly the big scene in act one where competing lovers Lysander (Gully looking like a toff young banker) and Demetrius (Harding) start squabbling, with their other halves Hermia (Bruce) and Helena coming to blows, had the house roaring with laughter.
At one point the two men hurled themselves at each other in a very impressive manner. It was surprising one or both weren’t knocked unconscious.
The problem I have with The Dream is that the second act is redundant. The story is told in act one and the second half is a bit of an after-thought.
It was taken up by the play’s mechanicals, a group of, it has to be said, quite awful amateur actors, putting on an atrocious play they’d written themselves, in front of the king and queen.
This was a surreal, Monty Python-esque, performance of the sort seen in uni drama societies. Some of the teenage audience were besides themselves with laughter.
So if nothing else there will be a few GCSE papers this summer calling Midsummer Night’s Dream the best farce ever written – and they may have a point.