Pros: A versatile and talented cast brightening a routine script with original songs.
Cons: A slapstick, almost juvenile approach to the story loses the show’s target audience.
The works of Shakespeare have long been fertile territory for revision, but rarely are we treated to a sequel; Thisbe is a story that picks up where A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream left off. The action begins fourteen years after the fateful night when Helena and Demetrius were lost in the woods. They now have a daughter, Thisbe who is mesmerised by the woods and the secrets they hold about her parents’ relationship. Puck and his fairies wreak havoc as they lure her into the woods with the promise of magic and adventure. But will this solve the mystery of her parents’ courtship and save her family in the process?
A strong cast of six combine song, dance and storytelling in a compact performance area inside Gerry’s Bar, a multi-purpose facility opposite Theatre Royal Stratford East. From the outside it appears to be an unassuming café bar, but shields a well-equipped studio space behind a black curtain. The premise is essentially sound in the story’s attempt to draw a conclusion from the romantic inclinations of Helena and Demetrius. It also stays faithful to ‘dreams’ by cranking up the fun factor wherever possible. However, I did wonder whether this production was more suited to a much younger, family-orientated audience. Every time a character mentioned going down to the woods I just couldn’t get ‘the Teddy Bears Picnic’ out of my head. Not necessarily a bad thing, but wonder whether the producers have missed a trick in pitching the show to an adult audience? This would provide an excellent introduction to Shakespeare if it was aimed more at children.
That aside, the show was great fun and drew stellar performances from the cast, particularly Rosalind Burt in the title role, Joey Hickman as Puck and Anne-Marie Piazza as Helena. It was also refreshing to see a BSL signer featured as a member of the cast; although the tight performance area meant that Jennifer Wilson as Mneme was sometimes obscured by other performers and set changes. Transitions in the story were smoothly handled with slick scenery movements and inventive use of basic stage props. The cast were highly proficient in playing a variety of musical instruments including the accordion, ukulele and trombone, which were used to create a range of sound effects complementing the performance. A solid production with a talented cast carried the show home with relative ease.
Author: Samantha Sutherland
Director: Roberta Zuric
Musical Supervisor: David Hewson
Producer: Euan Borland/Door Ajar Theatre Company
Box Office: 020 8534 0310
Booking Link: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/thisbe/#schedules
Booking until: 25 February 2017