A Midsummer Dream in Auld Reekie

Aug 11 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Moonshine

Inverleith St Serf’s Church Centre: Sat 5 – Sat 19 Aug 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

Leitheatre give a bold and entertaining performance of John Archer’s new Scots language play, A Midsummer Dream in Auld Reekie, at St Serf’s for the first two weeks of the Fringe.

To be clear, this is not an adaptation into Scots of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but a retelling of Shakespeare using the plot and structure to create a broad Scots comedy. It’s set in an Edinburgh which has all the contemporary references beloved of local pantomimes, from the trams to the football teams, and a whole load more of geographical and social pointers, down to an elopement planned using the X24 bus.

The Toffs: Cara King, Sammi Watson, Charlie Robertson, Daniel Todd, John Macaskill, John Archer, Dominic Carr, Sally Pagan. Pic Marion Donohoe

As a comedy this provides plenty of laughs. Archer himself as Lord Douglas and Sally Pagan as Lady Jane have a lot more backchat than Theseus and Hippolyta ever did as they prepare for their wedding with the help of Dominic Carr’s smoothly poised factotum, Philip. Although John Macaskill, channelling John Laurie, feels underused as Robert who, like Egeus, is really only there to help the plot develop.

There is plenty of banter between the lovers too, with Hearts-supporting David (Charlie Robertson) and Hibs-supporting Michael (Daniel Todd) off to the woods where they fall in and out of love with Helen (Sammi Watson) and Julie (Cara King) in the usual way – by magic perpetrated by Pablo López Sanchez-Matas’s tumbling Puck, misinterpreting Tim Foley’s entitled Oberon’s instructions.

excellent value

The four lovers are all excellent value. Todd and Robertson packing testosterone while Watson and King exercise their most scathing sides towards towards their wannabe lovers. Although not, it must be said, coming anywhere near Shakespeare’s brilliantly sharp-tongued exchange between each other.

Which is something of an indicator of the tone of the whole piece. There are great performances and some quite hilarious use of the Scots language all round, both contemporary and mid 20th century, but the big ideas and beautiful poetry of the original are roaring in their absence.

The Workies: Martin Dick, Mike Paton, Lee Shedden, Moira Macdonald and Alison Kennedy. Pic Marion Donohoe

Still, that leaves plenty of room for the Workies to have their own ball. And in many ways, this is the most natural part of the play to give such a treatment. Alison Kennedy packs the bossy put-down as Boaby Boothy, in charge of getting the play within a play of Pyramus and Thisbe on the road.

Lee Shedden gets the big role of Aeneas (accentuate the first syllable and it is far more vulgar than Bottom) the cleaning operative playing Pyramus, with Martin Dick as Rab the Joiner, Mike Paton as Skinny Malinky playing Moonshine, Debs Barrie as Nebbie who plays Wall and Moira Macdonald who roars around as Lion.

blocking issues

Tellingly, Archer leaves the lines of Pyramus and Thisbe intact, which is logical but it does feel as if director Christine Dall has spent less time on that element of the play than on others. There are some quite serious blocking issues from Wall and the comedy is generally not given the playful jesting it could.

However the Archer’s script does score big bonus points in loosening up the Toff’s asides. Although, the logic of bringing Tim Foley on as a Minstrel to strum a version of the Wichita Lineman (translated to Winchburgh) before Workies’ play starts is not clear.

Operon and Titania – Tim Foley and Irene Cuthbert. Pic: Marion Donohoe

For the Supernaturals, Foley’s Oberon and Irene Cuthbert’s Titania are real homebodies, with the backstory of the mother of the small boy over whom they are fighting deeply embedded in Edinburgh, particularly from quaffing fizzy wine in the trendy bars of George Street.

With Sanchez-Matas providing a particularly energetic, proactive and masculine Puck, although shorn of his best lines, Titania’s faerie band feel a bit wan. Although Kimberly McDonald opens the show well, as Dolce meeting up with Puck, and Talia Rivers is a good complement as Gabanna, with Macdonald and Pagan popping in the doubled roles as fairies Donna and Karen.

The whole looks good with a simple but effective set and Edinburgh skyline (seen in reverse to that visible from the venue door) by Derek Blackwood and Rik Kay, subtly lit by Mark Hajducki and with inventively appropriate modern day wardrobe from Norma Malcolm.

A Midsummer Dream in Auld Reekie is an interesting experiment in using a Shakespeare. It does not always succeed in everything it sets out to do – and there is definitely more that could be done – but for fans of both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and of Scots comedy, it is definitely worth the trip to Goldenacre.

Running time: Two hours and 10 minutes (including one interval)
Inverleith St Serf’s Church Centre, 1a Clark Road, Goldenacre EH5 3BD (Venue #83)
Sat 5 – Sat 19 August 2023 (not Suns).
Mon – Fri: 7.30pm; Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Leitheatre links

Twitter: @LeitheatreEdin
Facebook: @Leitheatre
Instagram @Leitheatre

Website: https://www.leitheatre.com



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.