O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell!
After the garish costumes and goofy antics of A Comedy of Errors in the Abbey Theatre, it was a strange sort of relief to see that director Jason Byrne’s next foray into Shakespeare would be back with the Loose Canon Theatre Company in the more experiment-friendly environs of the Project Arts Centre. Strange? Well, the marketing folks were emphasising “donkey fucking” in their promotional material for this production. However, animal rights activists need not go reaching for their placards, the scene in question is decorous enough to have pleased the Irish censor’s office a half-century ago. Instead, the performance lingers on Titiania (Catriona Ni Mhurchu)’s growing sense of horror when the charm is lifted from her eyes the following morning. Equally, the confusion and then the anguish on the faces of Hermia and Helena, as the targets of their affection behave in beastly fashion towards them, is notably emphasised here. Even the happy reconciliation of the lovers at the end transpires under the blinding glare of the rising sun.
Love hurts, right?
For all that, this is a play that takes its tongue and plants it firmly in adjacent cheek. The male fairies (Barry O’Connor and Phil Kingston) wear heavy metal t-shirts, smoke copiously, and plod about the stage. Meanwhile, Louise Lewis, as Helena, is hysterical as she frantically tries to shoo away the unwelcome attention of two suddenly ardent male suitors. Unsurprisingly, then, Bottom also gets in on the act, with a slovenly-looking Ger Kelly splendidly cast as the play’s artless self-aggrandised anti-hero, replete with a bray loud enough to wake all of Greystones. (more…)