A Midsummer Night's Dream @ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Just pray it doesn't rain.
And we're so glad we did. After eating our M&S picnic in the beautifully lit seating area, we took our seats. It seemed that wherever we had sat we would have had an excellent view of the stage - it's all very thoughtfully laid out. As we sat down, actors roamed the stage and through the audience, "constructing" the set and generally making noise. It was clear from the caravans on stage, the huge crane in the centre of the set and some of the cast's reflective jackets that the production was set on some kind of building site, complete with builders' WAGs in cork wedges and bling. Not quite what Shakespeare intended, but pretty fun to watch.
If you don't know the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Itchy suggests you do a bit of research before you watch this production. Although it would be entertaining in its own right, the adaptation may leave you confused. (Even we got a bit lost at times, and we have a 2.1 in Drama, doncha know?!) A Welsh UGG boot wearing Hermia (Hayley Galivan) pales into insignificance next to the brilliantly comic cork-wedge tottering Helena (Rebecca Oldfield)... you will feel like you have seen these girls on a night out, they're quite familiar stereotypes. Their male companions, Lysander (Tom Padley) and Demetrius (Kingsley Ben Adir), shine when they are under Puck's love spell, (Their literal gag on Hermia's name had us giggling every time), but they also do "serious" very well, with an impressive fight scene early on in the play leaving Itchy feeling that we had genuinely just witnessed two men being beaten up right in front of us.
The set was our favourite thing about this show - a caravan that opened up to reveal a huge overgrown flower bed of bright colours, a pool of water in the centre of the stage, and a crane that transformed the set in an instant. Our next best thing was the mechanicals (or the builders) and their brilliant show, complete with snippets of familiar songs and homemade costumes. (Anyone wearing a traffic cone on their head gets a laugh out of us, nevermind someone wearing a traffic cone on their head AND a dress made out of laundry bags. Win.)
We weren't huge fans of the fairies - Titania's performance was punctuated with pretty unnecessary and awkwardly orgasmic gasps and Oberon just didn't quite do it for us, but the camouflaged fairy was a nice touch. (See if you can spot her in the opening scenes.) Bottom's scene with Titania was far from subtle - Itchy's pretty certain we saw some mothers tutting and covering their children's' eyes - perhaps this is not a play to take the godson/little sister to.
Despite these tiny flaws, we absolutely loved our evening at Regent's Park Open Air theatre - especially the My-Big-Fat-Gypsy-Wedding-esque second half. If you fancy some Shakespeare with a difference, get your tickets now... and invest in a raincoat.
NB: Check out the different food and drink options on offer - you can even take the hard work out of picnic preparation by just turning up for the pre-show barbeque... yum!