Flabbergast Theatre do Theatre differently. When they visited Malvern Theatres with their adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I knew this was a great opportunity to introduce my girls to Shakespeare in an accessible format. Here’s what we thought of this fast-paced show full of goblins, sprites, faeries, comedy, dance and folk songs.
About Flabbergast Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
At risk of sounding like a GCSE student forced to watch a play, there’s a good chance you’ve probably seen a fairly dry adaptation of at least one of Shakespeare’s plays at some point. Thankfully, Flabbergast Theatre have absolutely smashed that cliché to pieces. This production brings physicality, drama and music to completely engage the audience from start to finish. It is without doubt the most enjoyable version of one of the Bard’s masterpieces that I’ve seen.
If A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a television series, it would be described as a dark Romcom. Its four sub-plots revolve around:
- The court of Theseus
- Four star-crossed lovers Helena, Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander
- Puck and the faeries
- The mechanicals, a group of labourers who are putting on a play for Theseus
The plots are as intertwined as the young lovers with farcical elements weaving them together. Dopey mechanical Bottom who has been given the head of a donkey by Puck ends up in an unlikely relationship with Titania, Queen of the Faeries. Puck’s meddling also causes chaos in the already fraught love-rectangle between Hermia and her pals. Theseus does his best to have a say in everything with very little success.
As you have probably already guessed, we were utterly blown away by Flabbergast Theatre’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From the moment you walk into the theatre, the cast are on stage, interacting with the audience before the production even starts. I must admit, this worried me a little bit. Was I going to be subjected to a pantomime version of a Shakespearean classic? I’m relieved to say, that wasn’t the case at all. Interaction with this hard-working cast both at the start of the show and during the interval was simply an added bonus to entertain the audience.
This production is a great example of how much you can achieve with a basic set and a small, dedicated cast playing multiple parts. Clever use of costume changes, masks, props and even stilts distinguish the characters so well that my daughter was shocked that so few actors came forward for the bow. She genuinely thought there were at least twice as many people on stage.
And on that note, is Flabbergast Theatre a good introduction to Shakespeare for a young audience? Absolutely. Will they completely follow what’s being said on stage? No. Does it matter? Also no. Despite remaining true to the script, this adaptation portrays A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the most lively way possible.
At times, I struggled to understand what Bottom was saying as the mask was just slightly too low on his face so the sound became a muffled. That combined with the flowery language made for difficult listening. My girls (aged 9 and 11) found a lot of the speech tricky to follow, as you would imagine. But because of the animated, energetic style of performance, they still kept up with the story.
I would particularly recommend the production for high-school children studying the play in school. Their level of understanding would be better after analysing the script and this adaptation really does bring it to life with a bang.
Flabbergast Theatre A Midsummer Night’s Dream: FAQs
The show is at Malvern from Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th November. I’m struggling to see where they are next performing the show so if you’re anywhere near Malvern, I recommend catching it there!
Tickets are available on the Malvern Theatres website.
Around two and a half hours including an interval.
Younger children wouldn’t get much from this, but for high-school aged children it is brilliant. My youngest is 9 and she did enjoy it but I would say she’d get more out of it in a few years time. Tickets for this show cost under £9 each for anyone aged under 26 so it won’t break the bank either.