A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Abbey Theatre – Review

Midsummer Night's Dream Abbey

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Abbey Theatre – Review by Colm O’Leary

When this production was announced several months ago, the most exciting part was the team of creatives behind it with Gavin Quinn and Aedín Cosgrove of Pan Pan moving to the national theatre for the first time. This long overdue debut has created a highly impressive interpretation of the Shakespeare classic, which returns to the Abbey stage after a 35 year interval.  This production is based in a Nursing home, with the actors playing the parts of Doctors, Nurses and residents of the home.

This is one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, with the fairy King Oberon toying with some unfortunate mortals and even his Queen, late at night in a forest. The love options in this production are administered in a drip, to add to the setting. The high jinx and confusion that are developed over the course of the play are well loved, and this production alters little from the original. If there is a failing, it is that it sticks too closely to the original. The stage time is approximately two and a half hours and it is difficult to keep the pace high for that length of time.

This initial device allowed them to cast some of the best acting talent in Ireland that have already received their bus pass. The life of an actor alters with age, you move from leading man or woman to playing fathers or mothers, moving further back on the stage and letting others take the limelight. This production uses this trick to alter the stage order, and turn the ‘young lovers’ a shade of grey.  The older actors seem to delight in it, with John Kavanagh, Gina Moxley and Dan Reardon particularly catching the eye. David Pearse is always enjoyable and is given plenty of stage time in his roles as Egeus and Peter Quince. This production has a massive cast with 18 actors on stage, many playing numerous parts. The play opens to an initial conga line, which leaves no one in doubt where this is headed. Director Quinn has embraced the lighter side of this play and brought the comedy to the fore.

The set is brilliant in its institutional splendour, with the linoleum floor, dreary walls and collection of odd arm chairs capturing the mood of forced calm. The costumes also deserve a mention, with John Kavanagh’s pants being worth the price of admission alone. This is the type of creative production that the Abbey should be putting on regularly. There feels like a rush of new ideas on the stage, with such attention to detail in every element. It is the type of production that could take repeated viewings to catch all the various strands.

Fiona Bell – Titania and Hippolyta
Andrew Bennett – Nick Bottom
Des Cave – Robin Starveling
Declan Conlon – Oberon and Theseus
Shadaan Felfeli – Indian boy
Máire Hastings – Cobweb
John Kavanagh – Lysander
Peadar Lamb – Francis Flute
Stella McCusker – Peaseblossom
Barry McGovern – Demetrius
Gina Moxley – Helena
Máire Ní Ghráinne – Mustard Seed
Áine Ní Mhuirí – Hermia
Des Nealon – Tom Snout
John Olohan – Snug
David Pearse – Egeus and Peter Quince
Daniel Reardon – Puck and Philostrate
Helen Roche – Moth

Gavin Quinn – Director
Aedín Cosgrove – Set and Lighting Design
Jimmy Eadie – Composer and Sound Designer
Bruno Schwengl – Costume Design

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