- A Midsummer Night's Dream
Since 2007, when it mounted a small scale traveling production of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Globe has sent touring companies out from London each summer. This year two directors, Raz Shaw and Rebecca Gatward, remounted their 2009 productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Comedy of Errors. The two shows visited different outdoor venues in the United Kingdom, with Dream also going abroad to Oslo, Malta, and Neuss in Germany. As Dominic Dromgoole points out in the program for Dream, professional theatre in England began with players on the road, performing in inn yards and guildhalls, and touring remained, partly out of necessity, "in Shakespeare's blood and in the blood of the company of actors he worked with." A versatile booth stage, "a design inspired by paintings and etchings from Shakespeare's time," provided a portable playing space for A Midsummer Night's Dream, suitable for performances outdoors. Its touring companies today then represent another effort by the Globe to recreate for our own time the practices of Shakespeare's theatre.
Both companies came home to London twice during the summer: Dream played the Globe in early May and again on the first two days of July (with a midnight matinee on July 2). When audiences entered the [End Page 560] yard, the booth had been erected on the Globe's thrust stage. It looked like a small circus tent: the roof came to a point in the middle, and it was fully open on the side that faced the yard. A string of lights (this was not what the Globe calls "an original practices production") ran across the top of the tent, horizontally along the frame, extending out and attaching itself to two beach umbrellas placed slightly upstage to the left and right sides of the tent. Beach chairs stood inside the tent and between the tent and the umbrellas. A tiring house, covered by the flaps at the back of the tent, was set up behind it. Steps at either corner of the Globe's stage led down into the yard.
Eight actors, initially in costumes that suggested the 1930s, played all the parts: the lovers doubled as both fairies and mechanicals. The show moved quickly, running about two hours and twenty minutes, excluding the interval. It seemed clearly designed to entertain and evoke laughter in an audience of all ages, one that would, as the publicity for the show put it, "pack a picnic and rug" and see it outdoors. When Helena entered at the end of 1.1, she found Hermia and Lysander kneeling together, kissing at center stage. She coughed twice but, when the lovers did not respond, she kicked Hermia and pulled her by her hair away from Lysander. (She subsequently played her soliloquy with exaggerated envy). Later, when they first arrived in the woods, Lysander carried a bouquet of roses, a bottle of champagne, and an imitation grass rug. He spread rose petals on the stage, laid out his rug, and twice sprayed his mouth with breath freshener. Hermia of course tore the rug in half and sent him with one piece of it to the other side of the stage.
Bottom galloped like a horse (or a donkey) onto the stage at each of his first two entrances, and, as Peter Quince assigned the parts in 1.2, he drew a woman from the audience up onto the stage and spoke the lines of Ercles to her ("The raging rocks / And shivering shocks"). He encouraged the...