Theatre is a living and breathing medium, language a lively form, and Shakespeare a playwright for all times. Yet too often it can be stifling, rigid, and uniform as it follows rules and plays at being ‘proper.’ But when it comes to seeing an art form you know well, it’s not enough just to have to have it replayed. Instead, as Lee McGowan said about locative literature, ‘Like a Hobnob in a hot brew, I want to dunk all my other senses in it too.’
Creation Theatre take A Midsummer Night’s Dream and make it a reality, all on the streets of Clapham with Omnibus Theatre. Part performance and part treasure hunt, we become both actors and audiences in the build up to Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s wedding.
Few productions have the audience sent on cryptic quests, required to sing for freedom, bundled into vans and carry gifts to the happy couples – but that’s part of the magic of this dream. Few productions also have adults weeping with laughter and sheer silliness and spontaneity. Boundaries broken, it does start to all feel a bit fantastical.
Inhibitions and purism won’t really be welcome here, as scheming fairies and talented actors twist and contort the text. A clever use of digital makes the magical scenes even more evanescent than a traditional theatre space, and technology becomes an enhancing medium. Even though Rolos, estate agents and Clapham aren’t in the original Folio Shakespeare did shift and change things for his time, responding both to current events and the groundlings the company performed in front of.
Bottom and Patsy Quince are played outstandingly well by Rhodri Lewis and Shelley Atkins, Giles Stoakley is convincing and engaging as Egeus, and brilliant energy comes from Natasha Rickman as Helena and Lucy Pearson in the role of small yet fierce Hermia.
Far from a passive audience, we become energetic parts to the performance. Director Zoe Seaton describes it as ‘free range’ theatre and it’s certainly more exhilarating and expansive than most immersive theatre. Cleverly done, our group of four – Hippolyta’s second cousins and thus wedding guests – were given clues and meeting places to solve, and followed our own trail without tripping over any other ‘guests’ until we all joined back together for the finale wedding picnic.
Creation have done something rather magical in their offering of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s not just interactive, but engaging, visceral and bold. Tricky to describe without giving it away, let’s just say that your trip to Athens will challenge all your preconceptions about theatre, Shakespeare, and Clapham.
Running from June 16th – 30th at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. Tickets are available here.