There is no line between audience and stage at The Bridge. Or rather, there are multiple lines, but they are constantly changing, with raising platforms, movable staircases and rolling beds; the actors jumping to the middle of the crowd or shouldering an unsuspecting audience member. The action happens all around and above the stage, and you have to be part of it, move with the sets and make way for the next scene. Don’t worry, nice and helpful crew members will be around to direct you! However, sometimes this means you will miss one or two sentences from the play, and that you have to choose smartly where to stand or else you might find your “one-meter-sixty” self behind an annoyingly tall guy. Theatre meets strategic planning. Unless, of course, you opt for one of the seats in the galleries, where such problems don’t exist.
This means the action is always performed very close to the audience. A daunting task to which the actors respond beautifully, giving life to their characters often just a few centimetres away from scrutinising eyes. David Moorst as Puck, the naughty fairy, is particularly impressive, able to keep his impish tics and posture even while boasting some aerial circus skills. Hammed Animashaun as Bottom is purely adorable at all times and probably responsible for the louder laughs of the evening. Sure his character was meant to be comical, but his knowing winks and expressiveness added a new layer of amusement.
Some roles in the original play are swapped: it is Titania, the Fairy Queen, who uses the love-in-idleness flower to manipulate four young lovers through a series of misunderstandings, and Oberon, the Fairy King, who is enchanted into falling in love with a man turned into an ass. A cheeky way to re-examine the power balance in the relationship between their mortal counterparts, Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, leader of the subjugated matriarchal tribe of the Amazons. And, of course, an excuse to have a shirtless dance from Oliver Chris, and a lovely mischievous grin from Gwendoline Christie.
All other cast members were brilliant in their roles: the relatable “rude mechanicals”, honest and well-intentioned, the only ones unaffected by the magical events of the night; and the fairies, a troupe of glittering, tight-fitted dancers who enter and marvel with their aerial and pole stunts.
The technical aspect of the performance is as well polished as the acting. From act to act, the stage gradually turns into a wild forest, with ivy growing on the props, mysterious fog, nighttime animals’ sounds, and an expressive balance of darkness and light. The costumes are gorgeous, all timings are perfect and the music either builds the required ambience or is in itself a comical element.
Overall, this is a truly amusing production. Greatly thanks to Shakespeare’s genius in devising such a convoluted plot, with all its witty remarks, word plays and unexpected turns, but also thanks to fun acting gags, a clever choice of props, metatheatrical references, and a turning of the pit into a party dance floor.
Of course, it could all have just been a dream.
- 4 stars