Culture Theatre

Review: Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mischief and magic abound in the Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Fairies munch on Kellogg’s cereal, human men transform into dancing donkeys, beds rise into the sky, and tousled-hair children run wild. This world of mayhem is not one to miss. 

The Scottish Opera has done great justice to Shakespeare’s comedy and Benjamin Britten’s following operatic adaptation. The performance is fun, fast-paced, and striking. Three acts go by quickly, and audience members enjoy each minute of the three-hour opera. Even more impressively, Dominic Hill has reimagined the setting and Shakespearan story in a surprisingly fitting and undeniably original fashion.

The fascinatingly drab yet beautiful production, with its bedraggled costuming and eerie make-up, will assuredly keep eyes glued to the stage—this is Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it before. 

The set is minimalistic and beautiful. Glass walls and hanging beds create a faerie world that is unconventional and forbidding. Nevertheless, this reimagined faerie land feels uncomfortably close to our mundane human world. The floating furniture, scattered cereal boxes, and magical balloons are simultaneously otherworldly and achingly familiar. Perhaps the strange mutations of the mundane serve to emphasize that real-life love is often chaotic and complicated. The tribulations of faeries and their convoluted web of love may not be so absurd and removed from our own human relationships. 

The children’s choir in Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Image courtesy of James Glossop via Scottish Opera.

The show’s stars are Oberon, Titania, Puck, and Bottom. Oberon (Lawrence Zazzo) hits high notes and croons in a strong, sweet voice. Titania (Catriona Hewitson) is equally talented with a steady and rich voice. Puck (Michael Guest) is a star not for his vocal cords but his animated charisma and charming misbehaviours. Similarly, Bottom (David Shipley) is a master of comedy and performance. Furthermore, the children’s choir is an ingenious addition to the opera. Their young voices and earnest acting are both endearing and eerie, enhancing the opera’s oddly fantastic atmosphere. 

The greatest strength of this production is not its musicality but its acting and amusing antics. The energy of this opera is admirable, and the show is funny in a sophisticated and (sometimes) subtle manner. As I sat through each act, I felt comforted by the continuous warm laughter echoing through the theatre. Even with its unnerving costuming and set design, the show is far from cold and aloof. The machinations of Puck, the buffoonery of the six working men, and the hilarity of the mix-ups in matters of love keep this performance happily energetic and engaging. 

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An outing to the opera may seem an old-fashioned excursion, but all audiences will enjoy this thrilling adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This Shakespearean reimagining is anything but trite or outdated. Dominic Hill has created something young, fresh, and alluring.

Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from 1st of March, 2022 to 5th of March, 2022.

Image Courtesy of James Glossop via Scottish Opera.