Confusion through the longest night

14th February 1997 at 00:00
A Midsummer Night's Dream Tramway, Glasgow February 2-8

All I will say is that Jonathan Miller stages A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1930s costumes with a company of actors mostly so old that, if they were teachers, they would be made retirement offers they couldn't refuse. Oh yes, and with a wall of dusty glass doors running obliquely across the stage.

I offer no explanations. The admirable Dr Miller does that at every opportunity. In the education pack (which posed questions such as "who's dream is A Midsummer Night's Dream?"), in the programme and at the pre-performance talk to the schools audience on the Tramway opening night - where, incidentally, the Glasgow children, unaware of his standing, badgered him with questions as if he were any old, friendly schoolmaster, only taller.

The Glasgow pupils were there at Pounds 2 a head, for which their schools also had the Almeida Theatre education pack and workshop. This bargain came through the Glasgow performing arts and education departments.

But those pupils from schools outside the city boundary, like the small party from Coatbridge, had to pay the full whack of Pounds 6. Hopefully, when the new local authorities can get to their feet, other education and arts departments will be able to join in Glasgow City's helpful partnership.

Certainly it was a cracker of an idea and, although the official line is that one-sixth of the week's audience was made up of school groups, it seemed more. There would be some tired eyes in the classrooms (why do performances aimed at schools finish at 11pm?), but they seemed to think it was worth it.

The audience warmed first to the Lysander of Angus Wright. A long gentleman, possessed of legs and arms likely to extend to improbable lengths and directions, he lounged and draped himself about the set, occasionally catapulting himself about.

He was one of the few to make any sense of the directorial line which, at most times unhelpful, was never improved by donnish jokes such as the camp menservant fairies, and Bottom's ass-head, which anyway only works in southern English pronunciation. Make everyone dress and speak as if they were in a No l Coward play, and Shakespeare comes out very flat.

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