City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

A Midsummer Night's Dream and Henry V, King's Theatre, Review

By Katie Stephen - Posted on 07 May 2016

Show Details
King's Theatre
Merely Theatre
Scott Ellis (Director), Emmy Rose (Associate Producer), Tatty Hennessy (Associate Director), Florence Hazard (Designer), Christopher Nairne (Lighting Designer)
Robert Myles, Hannah Ellis, Tamara Astor, Emmy Rose, Zena Carswell. Other Cast on tour: Luke Barton, Simon Grujich, Stephen Leask, David Gertis, Ffion Jones.
Running time: 

This year, the 400th since the death of the world's most iconic literary mind, marks the first tour for gender blind company Merely Theatre with their Shakespearian double bill.

Comprising five character-juggling players, two exuberantly delivered scripts, and one stripped back stage, this company ignore the recently publicised 48% opposition to women taking on classical male roles (as discussed with regards to Hamlet, by David Hutchison, The Stage, Apr 6).

Tackling the roomy auditorium of Edinburgh’s King's Theatre with only a bare-bones set, the meddling fairies from the better known of their dramatic duet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, sporadically spray love potions into the eyes of the lovers wreaking havoc and inducing raucous laughter.

Comically commanding the stage the players fleeted between their roles flawlessly, with special recognition to Zena Carswell’s boyish brawls between Lysander and Demetrius. Robert Myles’ Bottom was a wonder to behold, especially during his lengthy, yet hysterical death scene. The hysteria caused by this could only be matched by Tamara Astor’s sarcastically bitter, and energetically erratic Helena.

The latter and lesser known, Henry V had less need for the minimalist set as the interchanging football tops and exceptional characterisation provided the audience with all the geographical baring necessary. Carswell’s Henry not only gained victory at Agincourt, but also as a strong casting choice. Although less farcical than its touring partner, this historical play contained stand-out comedy performances from Emmy Rose’s Katherine and Hannah Ellis’ Pistol.

Artistic Director Scott Ellis’ aim to push his actors and build an inclusive relationship with his audience, even within the parameters of a larger touring theatre, was certainly a reality during this double whammy. By extending their bare-faced stage out into the auditorium, employing the help of audience members to fill lines and obliterating the boundaries of the forth wall, these actors weren’t merely the players Shakespeare intended them to be, but entertainers whose enthusiasm and energy fuelled each other's performances.

Only hiring an ensemble of 10 actors (five males and five females) before tagging in and out characters and actors alike, abolishing any gender constraints and proving that Shakespearian language can still be delivered and received as well as it did centuries ago.

If Sir Ian McKellen needs any more support for his claim that repertory theatres should return as a dominant force in Britain, he should look no further than the work of this fresh-faced company.

Runs at King's Theatre until Saturday 7th May 2016
Henry V: 2.30pm
A Midsummer Night's Dream: 7.30pm

All tickets £17.50 (Concessions available)