I have a new hobby. It’s called jogger dodging (sush now, it’s nothing filthy). No, instead it involves side-stepping, and generally making way for, lycra clad fitness enthusiasts as they pound the pavements. Living in the neighbourhood I do, even the briefest of excursions beyond the cosy cocoon of my flat usually involves an element of such dodging, but, for the advanced dodger, there is no greater challenge than that stretch of pavement that links the National Theatre with the Globe. Here they come at you in pairs, sometimes even in clusters, iPods on, eyes fixed on an invisible goal.
By the time you have navigated your way to Globe, successfully outmaneuvering all these numerous sweaty obstacles along the way, you may find you have worked up quite a thirst. This is easily rectified by detouring via the bar on the way to take your seat and pausing to absorb the sense of satisfaction that comes with a good workout.
My most recent visit to the Globe – my first of the year – was last week to see the second production in their Totus Mundus season, a staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Jonathan Munby (who also directed Ben Yeoh’s excellent Nakamitsu at the Gate last year). This was a broad production, not exactly subtle, but solidly entertaining nonetheless.
Colour played a major role. The first thing that strikes you is that the stage itself, which has been coated with glossy blue flooring. The Athenians wear solemn black in the opening scenes, changing outfits for their later escapades in the forest, and the Mechanicals wear the whitest of white tights when they come to perform Pyramus and Thisbe. And the fairies? Well their costumes were a mish-mash of Courtney Love‘s Hole-era cast-offs merged with a dash of Rocky Horror. By which I mean lots of corsetry and ragged tutus in lurid shades of pink and purple.
The production veered perilously close to panto territory at times. No potential innuendo was unmarked: groins were thrusted, bums were waggled and nipples were tweaked. Paul Hunter, as Bottom, went all out in his death scene as Pyramus – a fabulously over the top five minutes complete with mimed eye-gouging and self-castration. It received a spontaneous round of applause from the audience on the night I was there, though I suspect this was partly due to the sheer levels of energy involved. The other playing was less frenetic which helped to balance things out. Pippa Nixon and Laura Rogers were excellent as Hermia and Helena respectfully, embracing the comic potential of their roles with more gusto than Cristopher Brandon and Oliver Boot as Lysander and Demitrius.
But I was unsure what to make of Siobhan Redmond in the double role of Hippolyta and Titania. She was perfectly fine as the former, tender and affectionate in fact. But as the bewitched fairy queen she adopted this girly, giggly voice I found rather grating. She appeared to be modeling her performance on Carol Kane’s Ghost Of Christmas Present from Scrooged - though sadly she failed to assault anyone with a toaster.
As I said, this is a solid, amusing production, one that made me laugh quite frequently. Munby doesn’t use the space with quite the same level of invention as Lucy Bailey did in her 2006 production of Titus Andronicus but there are some lovely little visual touches. I particularly liked the moment when the billowing blue backdrop was whisked over the heads of the audience in the pit. And of course the Globe is gifted with that magical quality as the sun sets overhead, capable of elevating the most mediocre of productions into something special. Not that this was mediocre, it was fun, fizzing stuff, well paced and aware of its audience, content to do its job and do it well and then fade like fairy dust as the crowds file out into the night.