REVIEW It's about 20 minutes into Joe Hill-Gibbin's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Young Vic and I'm starting to wonder if the set designer and wardrobe department have fallen out. The entire stage is a thick mud pit and a lot of the cast is wearing white or pale colours.
At first I thought the theme was going to be 'damp summer music festival' as there were wellies and summer skirts and the odd rucksack but no, it wasn't that. Some of the cast certainly weren't dressed for a festival, more for an evening in the city and most quickly dispensed with wellies and shoes anyway.
There wasn't any reference to the mud, not even comic, it was just there and you couldn't ignore it because the actors couldn't walk (or run) in it normally. It was tiring watching them. OK so they could face plant without injury; which was funny the first time. A little bit the second time but after that...
Then about half way through the two hour running time I started to worry that this was just a convoluted way of having some mud wrestling. There was a lot of rolling around in the dirt and the fights between the four lovers got more physical but fortunately it didn't properly go there. It makes you think 'yuk', or 'that must cold and horrible' or 'a bugger to wash out'. It doesn't make you think about the play.
The silver lining of the production were the mechanicals and Puck. Leo Bill's shirt-less, pot-bellied Bottom in skinny jeans with tights on his head was a beacon of sunny mirth as were the rest of the troupe. Aaron Heffernan's Thisbe was a masterclass in acting bad acting and Lloyd Hutchinson's Puck had an amusing disdain for proceedings throughout.
If anyone has gleaned any deeper meaning or purpose to the mud I'd like to know otherwise it feels like a case of 'we can' rather than 'we should'. I'd have happily skipped everything else and just watched the mechanicals and as a result I walk out at the end feeling disappointed.
It runs at the Young Vic until April 1 and is two hours without and interval. I'm giving the mechanicals five stars and the rest of it a stuck in the mud two stars.