Review: Ben Miles swaps Cromwell cap for fake tan in Sunset at the Villa Thalia, National Theatre
Review: The funny, sharp and powerful Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion Theatre

Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Southwark Playhouse or when Stan went on stage to play a flower #7actordream

Midsummer-1At the end of this promo video for Go People's A Midsummer Night's Dream an actor says that 'everyone single person will come away with a slightly different experience' and they weren't kidding. I've had actors deliver lines at me, ad lib lines at me, throw stuff at me, sit next to me, even fall in my lap but I've never been dragged on stage to play a part before. Not until last night at the Southwark Playhouse anyway.

This isn't A Midsummer Night's Dream for purists, Go People have added an extra premise that they are a company of seven actors attempting to play all 17 parts. They also only have about four props between them but are going to give it a go with a bit of imagination and imagining from the audience.

When Puck (Melanie Fullbrook) is asked by Oberon (Ludovic Hughes) to fetch a wild pansy to use as a love potion, in lieu of a prop flower Puck grabbed me. So there I am in the middle of the stage with Oberon gripping my hands and intently telling me all about how he discovered said love potion. At least I think that was the speech he was delivering, at the time I was more concerned with the fact that I was actually on the friggin' stage and feeling just a teeny bit self-conscious.

But it didn't end there. I was whisked off to wait back stage by Puck while the next scene was in progress.  Then Puck said something like 'have fun with it' and lead me back on stage to 'work my flower magic'. Randomly waving your hands sort of works for a magic potion being administered, doesn't it? Later Oberon assisted by holding my hand and moving it in a delicately, elegant gesture. And I just wanted to face palm thinking 'yep that would have been better'.

Now at this point I should add that earlier we'd been asked to imagine there was a large oak tree in the middle of the stage which all the actors subsequently stepped around when moving from one side to the other. So when I was excused from my flower magic duties I felt I should carefully avoid the imaginary tree on my way back to my seat, in keeping with the spirit of things, which seemed to go down quite well. 

There were more flower magic duties later so by the time Freddie Fox's Demetrius sat in the empty seat next to mine for the final scene I almost felt like part of the company. Almost. Still, I certainly wasn't expecting to take the curtain call. Yep, there was me standing holding hands with Freddie Fox and Melanie Fullbrook taking a bow. First and only time.

If there are any casting directors out there looking for someone who can convincingly pull of mortified and slightly bemused give me a call but beyond that I'm more than happy to leave it to the professionals.

You'll get a flavour of the type of production this is from my experience. MSND is a play within Go People's play. The fourth wall gets smashed, the cast slip in and out of their multiple characters but not always in quite the right places which adds to the comedy. There is a lot of running around, quick changes, making do and some great slap stick. Freddie Fox's Bottom (titter) does a particularly good transformation into the donkey.

It all builds nicely to the final scene which requires all 17 characters to be in stage at the same time. Do the seven actors pull it off? You'll have to go and see to find out.

Sometimes it feels like barely organised chaos, it is fast paced and good fun and I don't think I've ever seen a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream quite like it and I'm not just talking about the bits I was in. It is on at the Southwark Playhouse's main house until July 1 and is one hour and 50 minutes without an interval and I'm giving it four stars.

*I wasn't the only member of the audience called upon for some stage time - so perhaps don't book front row seats if that thought terrifies you. And in case you were wondering, I've received pretty good notices (thanks Mike).

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