A Midsummer Nights Dream at The Lowry Review

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Lowry, Manchester

Wednesday 06 November 2013

Reviewed by Rebecca Singleton

This week has seen the Lowry host 3 of Benjamin Britten’s more famous operas performed by Opera North in celebration of his hundredth anniversary. On Wednesday night I went along to watch his take on the Shakespeare classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Elizabethan play as written by Shakespeare sees a quarrel between Oberon, the king of fairies and Tytania, the queen of fairies spill over into the human world. Oberon plots revenge after Tytania refuses to allow him a human child for which she should care. Oberon assisted by his trusty thorn Puck obtains a flower that is used to manipulate feelings of love and admiration. Before he uses the flower on his own Tytania he gets Puck to test it on the humans that wander into the forest. These include four young Athenian lovers and a group of 6 amateur actors.

Benjamin Britten’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream sees him change this Shakespearean comedy into an opera centred around the concepts of modern day sex and society. Although he uses the original script of Shakespeare I felt that often some of the more humorous moments were swallowed up, it wasn’t until the third act that I actually heard people laughing. I was not a big fan of the set which consisted of large clear corrugated plastic sheets and large clear floating balloons. I understand that Britten was trying to create the fantasy dream like quality that such a performance requires however, they were sometimes lowered to hard onto the stage caused a scratch/bang sound which was off putting and detracted from what was actually happening. The costumes again did nothing for me, Oberon’s mirrored attire often caught the light and instead of being dazzling it was just blinding as the light was reflected right into your eyes making you physically turn away from the stage. The children fairies as I heard another member of the audience describe them looked as if they had just come in there P.E kits with a feather duster attached to their backs.

There were nonetheless several aspects of the performance I did enjoy. I felt the role of Puck undertaken by Daniel Abelson was very well developed and executed he fully threw himself into the character, the small ticks and jerks made his a very real physical and entertaining performance ensuring that whilst he was on stage you were watching him. I thought the children fairies were excellent and I particularly enjoyed it when they sang in chorus. During the last act the performance put on around the story of Pyramus and Thisby was comical to watch and caused much hilarity amongst the audience. The musical score was dynamic and dramatic and lifted the performance at moments I zoned and just listened to the music. The orchestra and conductor did a fantastic job.

Overall I’m not sure I would watch this again, it was interesting but I though the juxtaposition between Shakespeare’s original and Britten’s version was just too vast and a lot of the humour was lost often making it confusing to watch. The Lowry as always was inviting and beautiful, the building amazes me every time I attend anything there. I find the staff pleasant and well-mannered and would recommend booking a night out at the Lowry.

Rating: 3/5

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