Colour plays a vital part in Jonathan Munbys staging of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The Athenians initially appear clad in dour black but the lovers switch to greens and yellows once swallowed by the forest. The Mechanicals meanwhile perform before the Duke in gleaming white, all this in striking contrast to the stage floor which for this production is a vivid blue.
This, the second production in the Globes Totus Mundus season following on from Dominic Dromgoole’s King Lear, is an unashamedly crowd-pleasing staging. Its brash and unsubtle but also a lot of fun; there is little room for insight, but you are often laughing so much you dont mind this absence.
When the Mechanicals come to perform Pyramus and Thisbe, every innuendo is milked for all its worth, no nipple is left untweaked and Paul Hunters fabulously over the top death scene, as Bottom playing Pyramus, complete with mimed eye-gouging and self-castration, receives a spontaneous round of applause from the audience.
Some strong playing prevents the production from lapsing fully into panto territory. Laura Rogers is a feisty, energetic Helena, delivering knees to the groin and elbows to the ribs with abandon, hurling herself to the floor and panting like a spaniel. Pippa Nixons Hermia proves to be more than a match for her, also prone to flinging herself groundwards and clawing at Helenas ankles; together they slightly overshadow Cristopher Brandons Lysander and Oliver Boots Demitius.
Siobhan Redmond in the double role of Hippolyta and Titania, was tender and graceful as the former but her girlishness as the bewitched Titania is rather overstated and became a bit grating after a while. Tom Mannion, with his agreeable Scottish burr, gave Oberon a pleasing solidity, a certain gravitas. This despite wearing more purple velvet than any man should have to. In fact all the fairy costumes seemed to be a result of an explosion in a childs dressing up box coupled with a dash of Rocky Horror, lots of corsetry and ragged tutus.
Munby keeps the pacing taut and understands how to play things to the audience in the Globes unique space (though he doesnt use it with quite the same level of invention as Lucy Bailey did in her 2006 production of Titus Andronicus). And, for the most part, he pitches the comedy at the right level, keeping the jokes flowing. He also throws in some lovely little visual touches. I particularly liked the moment when the billowing blue backdrop was whisked over the heads of the groundlings.
This may be comfortable, unchallenging theatre, but there are few things nicer than being made to laugh out loud while the sky slowly darkens over head: the Globe has a magic of its own as the sun sets and Munbys production sends you out into the night with a smile on your face.