Review: The Fairy Queen

Antonio Gottardello is taken to another world by this magical production

Photo: Dan Grimwood

Following a series of Shakespearean plays falling on the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, Purcell’s adaptation of A Midsummer Nights’ Dream is arguably the apex of this term’s theatre season in Oxford. Diving into the mystical regnum of Oberon and Titania, the play maintains the promise made in its prologue, tailor-made for the Oxford student population, and entices the audience into an accessible, though mystical, dimension. With a superb soundtrack laying the grounds for a light-hearted narrative, one cannot help but be amazed at the fact that this is a student production.

Often, theatrical works receive much praise if they achieve a semblance of topicality and relevance to modern times. And yet, director Dionysios Kyropoulos’s work deserves admiration for delivering quite the opposite to his audience. The comic machinations of the characters, along with the magical feats of the fairies, make it hard for audience members to draw parallels with their own lives, but certainly engender a longed-for escapism that contemporary plays often struggle to achieve.

For three hours, the spectator waves goodbye to his everyday worries and divorces himself from the moody Oxfordshire weather, to view a light-hearted comedy that would fill the most morose of men with blitheness.

The Fairy Queen appears to function as a potent painkiller. The orchestra brings to one’s mind Vivaldi; the dialogues read as witty and passionately as a Donne sonnet; it’s time to return to the gloomy essay deadlines mentioned in the prologue does indeed and such a visionary delivery makes the Oxford Playhouse seem almost unworthy as a venue, despite the grandeur one usually associates with it.

But, like any painkiller, the effect is temporary and the ‘come down’ proportionate to its high. As one is forced to leave the theatre, with sore hands after minutes of well-deserved clapping, the knowledge that it’s time to return to the gloomy essay deadlines mentioned in the prologue does indeed feel like coming down.

One contemplates going to watch the play a second time, but cannot help feel that the original feeling will be hard, if not impossible, to replicate. The Fairy Queen may not be the sort of play that ignites a great revelation, but its impressive aesthetic and ludic value makes one glad to have spent the evening at the Playhouse.