Published on March 29th, 2016 | by Francesca Baker0
Gender Reversed Shakespeare Company
A stage coated in dead leaves, a bright faced woman proffering coats to the audience, and a silence. This is the Forest of Eden, where strange and magical things can happen. Spirits frolic in the woods, love potions turn people mad and a donkey’s ears start growing from a man’s head. And it’s not the only thing that feels a little strange at first in the Reversed Shakespeare Company’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Pleasance Theatre in London.
A gender reversed version, where females play males and vice versa, it’s a little difficult to get your head around the characters to begin with, and not only because of how they look. Helena (Matthew McFetridge) is a red bearded man, and a man has ‘duty’ to his mother. ‘A scandal on my sex’ feels different when spoken by a man, and it’s almost uncomfortable to see him on his knees begging.
All of this just proves how stereotyped our perceptions are and how gendered norms infiltrate everywhere. I never noticed before how Helena’s words ‘Two lovely berries moulded on one stem’ are so phallic until spoken by a man, or how a gentleman fearing a Bottom’s (Ailis Duff) lion is even more ludicrous than women. Charlotte Mulliner plays a brilliant Lysander, and Matt Maltby as Hermia brings out the indignation of being ‘low’ brilliantly.
Super fastpaced (just under two hours with an interval) it’s a bold performance that manages to be entertaining and provoke thoughts to consider. Sometimes confusing and certainly irreverent, a small cast where actors double up makes things even trickier. But it’s worth persevering, especially in a setting where chaos reigns. Comedic and physical, touching and delicate, it’s a brilliantly executed performance that feels magical –which is exactly what Shakespeare intended.
Directed by Laura Jasper, the play is sold out, but you can find out about future productions on the Reversed Shakespeare Company’s website http://www.reversedshakespeare.com/Share This Post