Tim Supple’s production for his new company Dash Arts originated as a British Council-backed project, with a cast of Indian and Sri Lankan players, and the text spoken in a mixture of English and seven languages from the sub-continent. This proves no barrier whatever to understanding; moreover, we can appreciate the poetical sonorities of whatever language is being spoken at the time. Acrobatics are beginning to seem almost commonplace in British theatre, but this company’s work on ropes and silks is both impressive and meaningful: Titania goes to sleep in a kind of silken pupa suspended above the stage, so that when she wakes under an enchantment to fall in love with the ass Bottom there is a sense in which she is no longer the creature she had been. Bottom himself, played as an affable big-head (and, indeed, big-everything-else) by Joy Fernandes, acquires not only ass’s ears but a butternut squash between his legs – he is literally hung like a donkey.
There is a welcome edge of menace to the lovers’ contention (as, earlier, to Hermia’s arranged marriage-to-be), especially when Lysander and Demetrius have been daubed with magical love-juice, which here consists of handfuls of red powder and so suggests a mist of madness before the victims’ eyes. Matters are presided over by Ajay Kumar’s Puck, in scarlet dhoti and Mohawk haircut, who exactly catches the ambivalence of faery: mischievousness without innate compassion. And yet it still all ends in happiness and beauty.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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