A Midsummer Night's Dream (1984): Haymarket Theatre, Leicester
PrA Midsummer Night's Dream (1984)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Angela Bruce (Helena); Souad Faress (Titania); Michael Kingsbury (Demetrius); Vicky Licorish (Hermia); Paul Mooney (Lysander); Alex Norton (Puck); Don Warrington (Oberon).
The first performance of this production was on 24 October 1984.
"Purists may sigh. Students of leftist theatre may groan. For Nancy Meckler's revival of A Midsummer Night's Dream...is not only assertively multi-racial in its casting. It also brings on The People Show to play the mechanics....John Byrne's surrealistically bright decor comes with a splash that more resembles a Mediterranean beach than any wood near Athens. And though there is a new mood cut into the top of it, the night's accidents are more beholden to the spirit of the Crazy Gang than to the delicacies of Shakespeare's verse. Besides, who can expect the intonations of black players to convey its magic and its magical phrasing? Which is where it seems to me this extraordinarily enjoyable production paradoxically finds its strength. Miss Meckler's troupe, which trips over some of the poetic hurdles, thus brings home to us more of the play's magical spirit and energy than seemed possible without the experience of (say) the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is sacrilegious to doubt if the RSC could manage as much joy and mirth....Don Warrington's Oberon is not only in admirable charge of the verse but has a welcome stage authority; and Souad Faress gives Titania a properly erotic pride in her fancy for Mr Wolk's translated Bottom. Of the lovers, Angela Bruce's opening line 'Call you me fair?' sets the ironical tone; and Vicky Licorish's Hermia a truly tawny tartar, makes an amusingly fervent rival in the pursuit of mistaken affections." ~ Eric Shorter, "Mirth and magic preserved", Daily Telegraph, 30 October 1984
"Critics and others occasionally spout pious remarks about integrating fringe groups and black actors into Shakespeare, or designing something that does not resemble something by John Gunter and Bob Crowley. Well, here we are. This is a thoroughly delightful Dream, with costumes and cast as fresh as paint, a design resembling a Richard Hamilton pop art exploding firework display...Nancy Meckler's production is bubbling. You recall that Oberon and Titania are squabbling over an Indian boy. That boy is one of Titania's fairy band, local youngsters in white tunics and trousers, so many little Pandit Nehrus, whose leader, the exotic and dignified Souad Faress, for once makes the evil imprecations of Oberon's sexual revenge seem genuinely unreasonable. Don Warrington's Oberon is a slick operator, beautifully spoken, and a fine contrast to his more subservient, anxiously newly-wed Theseus....Theseus's palace is a primary-coloured wine bar, the lovers and royals dressed in the slinky second-hand black and white post-Punk everyone seems to wear nowadays. John Byrne's really outstanding design serves equally well for the forest, which the clever lighting by Chris Ellis and Richard Moffatt reveals to be a slinky glade of protruding and thrusting tubular poles with a luxuriant bower of leopard-skins." ~ Michael Coveney, "A Midsummer Night's Dream/Leicester Haymarket", Financial Times, 29 October 1984
"Quite a shock to come from the beauty and sensitivity of John Caird's great Twelfth Night for the RSC, which I saw the night before, to such a misbegotten mess as this. Its ingredients are sets and costumes in John Byrne's bizarrest vein, the People Show cast as mechanicals, and somewhere in the middle a non-production by Nancy Meckler. Even before Don Warrington and Souad Faress saunter on with cocktails to plan Athenian wedding entertainments Emil Wolk and his merry men are ad-libbing noisily in the band corner that will later show their furious offstage postmortems as Bottom and Co. In addition to masking some indifferent speaking, their musical contribution makes some extended numbers from the lovers' verse, mangled to fit - thus intensifying the suggestion of Joe Papp at his most fidgety....The set, a brightly painted box pierced by giant cocktail straws and a side-lit circular window wittily suggesting a crescent moon, could go straight to a theatre museum. Ideally, the costumes could be flogged for £200 each in the King's Road and the People Show would pursue their own devices on a separate evening." ~ Anthony Masters, "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Haymarket, Leicester", Times, 29 October 1984