A high school remake is a tried and tested formula to help add modern context to Shakespeare’s plays.

© Katie Edwards

This rendition has Theseus (Isambard Rawbone) and Hippolyta (Melissa Parker) become homecoming King and Queen of Athens Academy, an American style high school complete with letterman jackets and prom. The band of players are replaced with the high school glee club and given it is a play rather than a musical they perform. Which seems an odd choice over having them be a drama club. As in many iterations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the actors all play multiple characters and while they do well to make the distinction clear there are a few cases where a costume change for one character lead to little confusion over which was on stage, but this was quickly rectified once the dialogue began.

The play begins in the pop-up bar with the introduction of a few characters before moving around to the church courtyard. I was stood at one end of the bar area and as the actors moved through, they weren’t always able to be heard perfectly. Alisa Joy playing Puck was an exception to this as she was able to project her voice fantastically, but it was a shame that the others didn’t quite manage as well. Once sat on the ‘bleachers’ in the courtyard, we are introduced to the rest of the cast. The conflicts of the plot are set out and then the audience moves again to inside the church for the homecoming dance. This is a short scene that ends with the audience moving for the last time in the first half of the show to the church gardens. Moving the large audience is not a quick process and really interrupted the flow of the show. While in theory this was a lovely idea to make the most of the lovely setting of St Paul’s Church, in practice it acts as hindrance to the show. In the second half, the audience moves only once, from the garden to inside the church, which was a much better balance between the enjoyment of the setting and the disruption to the flow of the play.

This rewrite does well to point out the sexist nature of the ‘law of the land’ which requires Hermia (Melissa Parker) to wed – or in this version go to prom with – Demetrius (Ricky Oakley) instead of her love Lysander (Freddy Elleston). However, given that for the rest of the plot to continue, nothing about the ‘law’ is changed. Making the misogyny obvious only to proceed to ignore it makes one wonder why it is brought up at all.

The acting is fun and the humour works well throughout, especially during the play within the play at the end. Richard Holt as Bottom was an absolute joy to watch here. It was a shame that some of the issues with the production choices detracted from the enjoyment of the rest of the show. It was very much a case of not quite living up to the potential the show had.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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