My mother hasn’t featured on this blog for a while, simply because I haven’t been able to persuade her to come to the theatre with me in some months. The idea of traipsing into London on a cold night just to see a play is not her idea of fun; preferring as she does a kind of semi-hibernation in winter months involving lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and selected DVD box sets (she is quite taken with Mad Men).
Though she gets a kind of stricken look on her face every time I so much as pick up a copy of Time Out or the Guardian Guide in her presence, last week she, without prompting, mentioned that she might quite maybe want to see that thing with the Scottish chap in it (that Scottish chap being Ken Stott, we eventually established after further discussion and not James McAvoy). Her enthusiasm trailed off a bit when she realised I was serious about arranging tickets but I was not going to let such an opportunity pass.
The Rose in Kingston is the nearest theatre to where she lived and they happened to be playing host to Ed Hall’s all male theatre company Propeller who were doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in tandem with The Merchant of Venice. The former seemed like a fair comprise. My mother was less sure, having not enjoyed the last few Shakespeares I subjected her to, but I mentioned that there was a large bar and I absolutely, definitely would not make her sit on the floor as I sometimes do at the Rose (the cheapest tickets, the best views and even at home I usually opt for the floorboards over the sofa anyway – so it works for me). There was an unspoken agreement that pre-show drinks were on me.
The production is broadly performed and entertaining, a bit laboured in places but good fun. It’s an all male company and the performers playing female roles do little to signify femininity except for putting on skirts and speaking in a higher tone of voice: the actors all sport close cropped hair and stubbled chins. There’s some neat playing about with gender roles: when squabbling in the forest, Hermia and Helena square up like football fans in a pub brawl while Demetrious and Lysander scrap like schoolgirls in a playground. Puck wears stripy tights, a tutu and a pair of glittery ruby slippers. But other than that it’s a pretty straightforward run through, not quite as bawdy and well-paced as the Globe’s recent production. My mother looked a little perplexed at times but I think she may just have been working out the logistics of nipping downstairs for an interval cigarette.
At the end her verdict was: “OK”, “quite funny in places” and “not as long as I thought it would be.” All of which is more positive than I expected. She couldn’t quite fathom why the woman next to us was “laughing like she wanted everyone to notice she was laughing,” but this is an improvement on the time she spent much of a (admittedly fairly pedestrian) production of As You Like It glaring at the large man who was taking up more than his fair share of the bench they were sharing and scribbling notes throughout – who turned out to be Peter Hall.
She has tentatively agreed to come and see something else with me in a couple of weeks provided it's not another Shakespeare, though she says she must first “check the work diary” which I think is a euphemism for seeing if she can’t find something better to do, but still – I’ll take that as a yes.