This was a show of many levels, some literal and others more metaphorical. The set was composed of multiple raised platforms that moved through the audience, including them in this modern interpretation of Shakespeare. The moments of play and humour provided by Puck (David Moorst) and the magic of the fairies performing aerial acrobatics high above the stage were strengthened by the dispersal of the audience throughout the set.
Although having the staging dispersed and moving through the audience is a creative and effective choice, I believe it was better enjoyed as a virtual performance on a screen rather than live. Viewing the performance virtually allowed you to appreciate the entire imagery of a scene, compared to what I imagine was the snippet seen by the standing audience. I’d also imagine being moved frequently by the ushers to make way for the moving set could have distracted from the enjoyment of the whole performance.
An additional, and central dimension to this performance was humour. A key expression of this was how the script was brilliantly altered to include popular one-liners or contemporary language making the play more relevant to present-time, breaking up the performance and leaving the audience in stitches. From the alterations of the script to the play of Pyramus and Thisbe being presented to the King and Queen in the format of a Britain’s Got Talent style competition, and Puck proudly displaying his queer nature by wearing rainbow armbands, the modern makeover given to one of Shakespeare’s greatest pieces made it overwhelmingly enjoyable.
Continuing with the subtle nods to the world outside of Shakespeare, the performance concluded with large balloons being thrown between the audiences, something typically associated with concerts rather than live theatre, adding further hints to life outside the performance and was encouraged further participation uniting the audience. A beautiful ending to a performance merging Shakespearean structure with contemporary influences leading to a light-hearted performance which brought the audience together.
National Theatre At Home has united people around the country to have access to theatre from their own homes, which will hopefully receive the funding and donations to unite people once again to enjoy live theatre when it is safe to.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, this production was performed at the Bridge Theatre and showcased to many via National Theatre At Home.
Image Credit: National Theatre, Manuel Harlan