To The Rose Theatre in Kingston this evening to see Peter Hall's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a strangely lacklustre.
The promising premise was to play Titania as a portrait of the mature Elizabeth I and to allow exploration on the theme of love and power to grow from there. Unfortunately the symbolism got stuck on this clever visual crossover and despite Judi Dench's effortless and beautiful performance, went no further.
The real obstacle was the support. Puck and Oberon unexplainably mugged, prated, camped it up and did everything to demonstrate inferiority to their Queen. Perhaps this was a deliberate decision to underline the gulf in class, but how much more exciting and liberating for the story it would have been to play the Fairy King as a young tiger, Essex or Leicester, full of self-confidence, ambition and desire? How much more interesting to allow Puck's 'on the make' malevolence some reign and leave the gags to Bottom and his crew.
As it was I saw no reason for this Titania to waste more than a cursory moment of her splendour in their company. This Oberon certainly wasn't worth falling in love with.
The mechanicals provided, as they always do, a little relief and the lovers attacked their roles with energy and clarity but, truth be told, I found the production lazy. Hall had clearly focused on the verse speaking, but beyond that it felt as if his direction had been texted in. As a crowd puller Dame Judi is a coup, but sadly, having persuaded her to take part, an opportunity to reframe the play was carelessly lost. Maybe her presence alone was deemed enough.