What happens to the happy couples after the magic and machinations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are over? To Dream Again, a play for young audiences inspired by Shakespeare’s work, offers some answers. Sophie’s parents, Helena and Demetrius, can barely be in the same room anymore – they send texts rather than speak, bicker endlessly, and though they both love Sophie, can’t help using her to fire shots at one another. Sophie is desperate to fix their marriage, and sure that they’ll fall in love again if she can just take them back to the beginning of their story.
Shakespeare’s fanciful romance is quickly grounded by the realities of a world where combi-boilers pack up and there’s homework to be done. The show’s magic follows suit – Robin ‘Puck’ Goodfellow (Elliot Rodriguez) poses as a plumber to help Sophie (Hannah Hutch) out, bringing with him domestic tricks, like a glittery wrench that turns the radiator valve by itself, or a broom that can stand on end unaided. For a play filled with fairies, though, you might expect more by way of special effects. To Dream Again is what my dad would call “a talkie”: dialogue-heavy, focusing on words rather than action. This runs into difficulties as Toby Hulse’s script seems, at times, to tie itself up in knots. When Sophie does go back to the midsummer night when her parents met, what happens gets caught in a kindof Inception-like tangle, confused by the blend of Shakespearean and contemporary language, so that the play’s ending is clear but how we got there is not.
The production offers the most honest portrayal of fractured family life that I can remember seeing in children’s theatre, whilst also drawing awkward parallels between plumbing and marriage. It’s lead is a gutsy and mature 9 year old who loves to write, but she has a very stylised ‘little girl’ voice, both high-pitched and incapable of pronouncing certain words (like “nuffink”). To Dream Again is a moving account of a childhood spent with warring parents, and a flawed piece of Shakespeare fanfiction.
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