Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pleasance

“A proper woman, as one shall see in a summer’s day”

It’s all in the name – the Reversed Shakespeare Company have set themselves up with the express intention of exploring and expanding gender roles by flipping the script and giving us Shakespeare’s male characters played as women, by women and vice versa. So instead of your Polonias and Malvolias, their debut production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins with Egeus and Hermia as a battling mother and son in the court of their Duchess, Theseus.

It may take a moment of adjustment, not least when Helena bounds onto stage with a luscious red beard, but it sets the scene for an adventurous, interesting take on the play, that really does have a lot to say in its shifted sexual dynamics. How often do we get to see women being this forthright and dominant in their relationship, or men demurring modestly from a quickie in the woods? Or indeed for that matter (especially in light of The Painkiller and indeed the whole of farce as a genre), how rare it is to see women allowed to be this physically funny onstage. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pleasance”

Review: Road Show, Union

“Carelessness and being free of care,
Aren’t they the same?”

Since its inception in 1999, Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show – with book by John Weidman – has undergone considerable rehabilitation, not least three title changes, and so has rarely been seen on this side of the Atlantic. John Doyle transferred his Off-Broadway production to the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2011 for its European premiere but this is the first UK revival since then, director Phil Willmott continuing a mini-residency at the Union after last month’s fine Fear and Misery of the Third Reich

But where the episodic nature of Brecht’s storytelling worked well, Road Show is less successful in stringing together its vignettes of chasing the American Dream into something more affectingly substantial. The show follows the contrasting but always connected lives of brothers Wilson and Addison Meisner (per the programme) as they seek to parlay guts and gumption into something more, taking unsuspecting benefactors, love interests and easy marks along for the ride. Continue reading “Review: Road Show, Union”