More about A Midsummer Night's Dream

He's a clever rogue, this Brook

Well, you never know what Peter Brook will do to amaze you until he does it. As the theatre's rogue elephant, he has taken a play acknowledged for 370 years to be romantically lovely and turned it into a circus performance.

And, as the theatre's rogue fairy, he has shown us how to do it so teasingly and gracefully that it delights the audience and respects the play.

Yes, he has amazed us again. And amazement is what the theatre is for.

How can you perform the Dream in a white walled circus ring in blinding light with trapezes flying overhead?

Why, the fairies, swinging over the heads of the mortals, are the trapeze artists.

The mixed up lovers, clawing each other up and down ladders in white bell bottoms and tie-and-dye dresses, are the tumblers.

And the rude mechanicals, bursting into the ring with their saws, planks, string vests and the roaring of Pyramus and Thisbe's lion, are the slapstick clowns.

Once you get used to it, it seems natural. It seems natural that Puck on a trapeze should pass the magic flower juice to Oberon in a spinning silver dish on the end of a juggler's silver stick.

It seems natural that the rhymed couplets of the lovers, with their student hairstyles, should be sung to a pop guitar as if they had stolen away, not to a wood near Athens, but to the Isle of Wight festival.

Oberon on trapeze

And after Bottom has been carried to Titania's bower in a shower of paper plates thrown by male fairies to the Mendelssohn Wedding March, it seems natural that the fairies sweep up the ring as in a real circus interval.

Just a few samples of the production's ingenuity, which owes much to the far-out designs of Sally Jacobs and the far-out music of Richard Peaselee.


It also owes much to the actors, not only for their elegant trapeze swinging and juggling but for making the verse come over like crystal despite these distractions. There is an outstanding Puck - John Kane, impish and acrobatic in lemon pantaloons and the ideal foil to Alan Howard's wicked Oberon (who changes with the flick of a cloak into princely Theseus).

Titania, Bottom and fairies

And David Waller's bully Bottom, British to the core, finds an ideal foil in Philip Locke's gentle, anxious, fatherly Peter Quince.

It is a production that will mightily offend the traditionalists. But it kept me in a constant bubble of delight, amusement............and amazement.

Peter Lewis

Daily Mail, 28.8.70

Oberon and Titania


Playing Shakespeare/Dream