Review: Pocket Dream at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

'I didn't stop smiling': Pocket Dream at the Belgrade. Picture: Dominic Clemence
'I didn't stop smiling': Pocket Dream at the Belgrade. Picture: Dominic Clemence

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Pocket Dream, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Propeller’s Pocket Dream might be Midsummer Night’s Dream cut short, but it’s not Shakespeare lite.

What’s left out are some of the darker elements: Theseus and his court don’t appear at all. What’s left in are the rude mechanicals, the fairies and the lovers. These are the essence of the play, as sweetly distilled as Oberon’s magic juices.

Propeller’s shows have much in common with those of Shakespeare’s day. Much is done with little. Players then would often cut whole scenes according to the interests of the audience. So here. Then there’s the all-male cast, which would have been the norm then. Actors then as now had to morph between parts as swiftly as Puck’s flight through the forest: a quick change of costume, often on stage, and they’re fairies/lovers/a lion/a wall/a maid/a hero. The action is fast and physical; the comedy rude and lively.

At the heart of the performance is the language, which is what really matters. In the mouths of this well-honed troupe it sparkles like fairy dust, but it is never obscure. Reach out and you can touch it.

Propeller specialises in shows for younger audiences, often delivered in school halls and other places outside the normal run of theatre productions. There were many in the Belgrade’s main hall tonight much older than that.

I didn’t stop smiling once throughout the whole show, and I know I wasn’t the only one. For once the term ‘magical’ is well deserved.

* Pocket Dream runs until tomorrow (Saturday). Call 024 7655 3055 for tickets.