Tag Archives: Flabbergast Theatre

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Wilton’s Music Hall

If you saw Flabbergast Theatre’s production of Macbeth last year, its new show should interest. The company has plenty of energy and ambition. And seeing how its emphasis on movement works with a Shakespearean comedy, rather than a tragedy, is intriguing. Regrettably, the result is disappointing.

Nearly everything about the show is exaggerated. There’s no doubting the commitment this entails. Every movement, each gesture, all the lines, are deliberately stylised. The cast of eight dance and clown around the stage. It looks exhausting. Declamatory all of the time, they shout most of the lines, or lean into odd pronunciation. The effort is incredible. But what is the outcome?

The first to suffer are the play’s quartet of Athenian lovers, whose story is robbed of romance and becomes unbalanced. Elliot Pritchard and Nadav Burstein, as Lysander and Demetrius, dominate Helena and Hermia, played by Vyte Garriga and Paulina Krzeczkowska. At times, their fighting drowns out all dialogue. Director Henry Maynard presumably wants to emphasise comedy – and there are laughs – but the jokes are limited and repetitious, a fault that runs through the whole production.

Next, the fairies. We can at least hear Titania clearly, as Reanne Black delivers her lines well. There’s also puppetry – a collection of skulls used to good effect. Krystian Godlewski’s Oberon has his moments; presenting a majestic figure as part-animal part-child is interesting (I’m less keen on the mankini and the stilts). Meanwhile, Lennie Longworth makes an appealing Puck. Both performers have a physicality and vocal skills that impress. But all the aggrandisement distracts, grates and, finally, becomes monotonous.

Of course, everyone takes multiple roles – they really do work hard. And when it comes to the amateur actors staging their own play (wearing masks throughout), the transformations are remarkable. Taking the lead and giving it his all is Simon Gleave as Bottom. But while it’s clear that the style of the show suits the character, you might guess the problem coming. We’ve already seen so many wild gestures and heard so many strange noises that it is hard not to get tired of them by the time Bottom is in the (literal) spotlight.

Gleave also performs as a grotesque Egeus. With Theseus and Hippolyta ditched, he is the sole authority figure. Maybe…the idea is that there isn’t a contrast between the characters. That all the roles – lovers, fathers, kings and queens, are performative. This might also account for how much miming and mimicking goes on. It’s not just the mortals who are fools here. But that’s just a guess. The overall impression is confusing, as if a technique has been pursued regardless of how funny or engaging it really is, or what it might add to the play.

Until 20 April 2024


Photo by Michael Lynch

“Macbeth” at the Southwark Playhouse

Flabbergast Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy is a brave failure. The show is full of arresting imagery and committed performances – it is bold from start to finish. But a central conceit is hard to pin down and uncomfortably constraining… Macbeth in a madhouse seems close to describing what’s going on. That the idea turns out less interesting than it sounds is a shame, given the tremendous effort of all involved.

Linking Macbeth to insanity isn’t a bad idea. Fits are mentioned, there are famous hallucinations, and the banqueting scene is ripe for such an interpretation. Can the witches be mad? Of course, they’ve been everything else in various productions. And the suggestion that Banquo’s murderer is schizophrenic is a good touch. But the whole idea does, forgive me, straitjacket the play. It’s scary and unpredictable (an achievement of sorts) but it is hard to take the drama seriously as connections between the characters are severed. While the ensemble work together well, the characters seem isolated in individual trauma.

Henry Maynard’s direction is aided by work with movement from Matej Majeka which is often interesting.  The whole ensemble impress, not least with some of their backbends. Everyone is on stage a lot and never loses focus. The musical arrangements from Adam Clifford make great use of percussion and the ensemble are a good choir. The small amount of puppetry that features is worth noting. But every aspect of the show is exaggerated and that turns into a serious flaw.

There are technical problems too. The production fails to consider the venue’s thrust stage so that two thirds of the audience are ignored too often. Above all, hearing what anyone is saying is very difficult. Taking the lead role, Maynard tries hard but it is really only Kyll Thomas-Cole’s Malcolm we get to hear properly. There’s no way you’d know what was going on without a thorough knowledge of the play and while the company can be proud of its energy, that makes the effort here wasted.

Until 8 April 2023


Photo by Picturegrafix