Careless talk may not cost lives in the Royal Shakespeare Company's touring new take on Shakespeare's most playfully subversive of rom-coms, but the Second World War setting of a show here subtitled A Play For The Nation displays how a world ripped asunder can easily be led astray. Director Erica Whyman's world care of designer Tom Piper is a bombed-out speak-easy, where pleasure is still on ration enough for all-comers to grab at whatever takes their fancy while they still can, whatever side their bread might be buttered.
This is as apparent in the game of kiss-chase the assorted sets of lovers inadvertently embark on as it is in the black-market wheeler-dealing of Chu Omambala's more-kingpin-than-king Oberon and Lucy Ellinson's wonderfully spivved-up Puck. Most of all this comes through in the Mechanicals, here played by the Citizens Dream Players, a locally sourced ad hoc ensemble of real life amateur performers drafted in, as with similar groups on the rest of the tour, solely for the Glasgow dates.
To say the Citizens Dream Plays not only integrate themselves with aplomb but more than hold their own with the professional cast is an understatement. All six Mechanicals excel themselves, as do the pupils of Shawlands Academy who play Oberon's Fairy Train as blazer-clad urchins. For all the stately splendour on show, however, this show belongs to Martin Turner, whose turn as starstruck old ham Bottom transcends Philostrate's snobbish notions of “hard-handed folk” with studied glee. As the song and dance finale accompanied by a live showband suggests, in such an extreme cross-class meltdown, keeping calm and carrying on is the only option left.
The Herald, March 31st 2016