It’s been been a while since I studied it, but I’m pretty sure A Midsummer Night’s Dream didn’t start with a stand-up routine. This Filter production, though, sets out its stall from the very start: it is not your average Shakespeare.
The action takes place in what looks like a subterranean bathroom with grotty, tiled walls. There is a live band complete with full drum-kit. Shakespeare’s characters are little more than a vague inspiration for Filter’s grotesque creations: Oberon is reimagined as a second-rate super-hero, complete with spandex costume and silver cape; Puck is a burly, tattooed roadie; Bottom is well… that would be telling.
An extra onion-layer is written into the play-within-a-play, adding to the chaotic atmosphere. The fourth wall isn’t so much broken as bulldozed and set alight; one improvised moment saw Puck challenge a member of the audience to throw a bread-roll at him. It’s a slapstick affair that owes as much to Laurel and Hardy as it does William Shakespeare: that the fine thread weaving the whole production together remains more or less intact is a small miracle.
Anyone with a particular attachment to the bard’s words will chew through their tongue before the interval; everyone else should add it to their calendar.
First published in City A.M.