Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at The Actors’ Church, Covent Garden

Thursday, 14th July — By Harry Taylor


Dream team: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: Katie Edwards

YOU might wonder where there’s space for open-air theatre in Covent Garden. The venue for A Midsummer Night’s Dream stares you in the face when walking around the old vegetable market – the grand porticoed St Paul’s Church, better known as the Actors’ Church.

The church and its grounds have been brilliantly adapted for Iris Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy.

The play has been tweaked too, revolving around prom night and regionals of the glee club for students at Athens Academy. The result is a joyous, silly and thoroughly enjoyable summer’s evening.

Audience members could be forgiven for wondering why they were stopped from taking their seats as the clock moved past the start time of 7.30pm. Fear not, as Puck, played with great delight and playful mischief by Alisa Joy bursts into the pop-up bar. They set the tone for the few hours ahead, complete with audience participation. If you’re shy and retiring, it’s probably best not to sit in the front row.

We sit on benches in front of the church’s entrance to hear Lysander (Freddie Elletson) plot with his lover Hermia (Melissa Parker) how they will escape the constant intentions of the arrogant Demetrius (Ricky Oakley).

Meanwhile Helena, who is besotted with Demetrius, is yearning for his attention against her better judgement, an internal conflict that Zena Carswell exhibits wonderfully.

The play moves inside the church for the prom, from where Hermia and Lysander make their escape to the forest, pursued by Demetrius. Adapted for the modern age, the prom features songs by Backstreet Boys and Vanilla Ice.

Out then to the forest, set up in the church’s long narrow gardens, where Sara Aniqah Malik’s production skips along from act to act.

Towards the end, Puck remarks that “invisibility is lonely”. Luckily there will be little chance of that – this play deserves to be seen, and audience members will be far from alone watching this fun adaptation.

Until August 13

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