Review: Shakespeare meets disco in OVO's A Midsummer Night's Dream production at the Roman Theatre

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium. - Credit: Elliott Franks

Madeleine Burton reviews OVO's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at this summer's open-air festival in St Albans.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

It’s party time at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium and boy do the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream know how to party.

OVO, now established as a ‘must-see’ theatre company in St Albans, are launching their annual summer festival with Shakespeare’s comedy.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

But this is not Shakespeare as audiences generally know the play – although it remains true to the original in many respects.

No, this is A Midsummer Night’s Dream brought much closer to modern times by being set in a Blackburn working men’s club in the 1970s and wrapped in the music of the era.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium transports audiences to the glittering, hustling, hip swivelling age of disco. - Credit: Elliott Franks

It is a heady combination that raises certain questions about the Shakespeare play, particularly the treatment of the women characters yet, like the best productions, retains the zest and humour of the original.

We know we’re in for a good evening before the play even begins as Guido Garcia Lueches in a bizarre costume as Robin Goodfellow/Puck roams around the audience in his silver platform boots.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

Directed by Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan, A Midsummer Night's Dream can be seen in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium. - Credit: Elliott Franks

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And he is undoubtedly the star of the show from his strong singing voice belting out the hits of the 70s to his top-notch acting skills.

But there are plenty of other magical moments with even the tale of the two sets of lovers in the woods, often seen as the most tedious part of the play, brought to life in the production.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

Theseus and Hippolyta, who are also Oberon and Titania, are played to perfection by Ben Whitehead and Emma Wright. They bring an interesting new slant to their relationship in both contexts.

And who can forget the mechanicals, Bottom and his team, here introduced in the first instant as employees of the working men’s club.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

Be prepared to laugh your heads off as Bottom, a marvellous performance from Daniel Hall, becomes the ‘ass’ whom Titania falls for.

And the other mechanicals/employees, all of whom are gifted musicians, are transformed into ABBA fairies.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

Adam Nichols, who founded OVO years ago and must take much of the credit for the theatre company’s success, is joined by Matt Strachan in directing the show.

Not only did they have an amazing vision for the production and a talented cast but they also owe a huge debt of gratitude to choreographer Sundeep Saini and musical director Tom Cagnoni.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream OVO-style offers the party to end all parties in St Albans until June 11.

For tickets go to ovo.org.uk

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

OVO’s brand new musical transports audiences to the glittering, hustling, hip swivelling age of disco. - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream By William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium. - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium. - Credit: Elliott Franks

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the open air at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium - Credit: Elliott Franks