Tales from the bathroom

A new Shakespeare production turns out to be dreamy, as Heather Neill reports

A Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare's Globe, London SE1

Mike Alfreds, the director of this production, has chosen to concentrate on the word "dream" in the title and has his entire cast dressed in pyjamas and negligees.

The props have a whiff of the bathroom - a loo roll for Peter Quince's scroll of names when the Mechanicals turn up for rehearsal, and toothbrushes instead of daggers in the Pyramus and Thisbe play in which Snug plays Lion with a bathmat mane. Even Bottom's "translation" into an ass (in John Ramm's successfully slapstick interpretation) is signified by a pair of ears consisting of fluffy slipper mules.

During a Talking Theatre session (a free post-performance discussion on Wednesdays and Saturdays) Mike Alfreds said that he thought A Midsummer Night's Dream a difficult play, which really ends in Act IV when the couples are correctly brought together.

He didn't want to make the action fit artificially into a particular period; bedroom imagery gave it a suitably separate world. All the cast play fairies, their costumes bursting into patterns of sparkling light (with the help of complicated computer programmes and battery packs) when they become magical.

The substantial numbers of fairies thus created fulfils Mike Alfreds'

purpose in making the theatricality of the piece clear. Not only do the actors have to play "out" to the Globe audience, but all the characters, except Oberon, are observed by others. There is a play within this play, but there are audiences too.

The lovers, says Mike Alfreds, are undergoing a rite of passage, growing up, so the actors must not over-indulge in emotion. Their characters are adolescent, self-indulgent, in love with love. There can rarely have been a Hermia and Helena so obviously answering the descriptions in the text: dark and tiny, blonde and tall respectively.

Mike Alfreds has allowed his cast to come up with their own malapropisms to replace ones which may have little meaning for a modern audience. Students will enjoy spotting the occasional unfamiliar word.

Until September 27Tickets, tel: 020 7401 9919Information about education events: www.shakespeares-globe.orgeducation

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you