Midsummer [a play with songs] ****


Traverse Theatre Company, Edinburgh
Friday 24th October – Saturday 15th November 2008

The festive season is approaching and with it comes the humble pantomime. Usually British children’s first exposure to theatre and can establish a love or hate relationship with theatre for the rest of their lives. In a lot of ways, new play Midsummer [a play with songs] by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre brings many pantomime elements back to entertain its adult audience. The cast of two (Cora Bissett as Helena and Matthew Pidgeon as Bob) present a romantic comedy complete with audience interaction, entertaining tangents, characters moving around the audience, belly laughs and a happy ending. Not to mention the beautiful songs that recur throughout the piece, not moving the story along but instead commenting on the action and entertaining. And in the same way we did as children at pantomimes, we leave the theatre with a huge smile on our faces.

The play’s action begins with Helena waiting in an Edinburgh bar for her married lover, but when he cancels on her she spots Bob. The two spend one night together and go their separate ways, but they soon find it is not that easy and their lives tangle up for the rest of the weekend. The story itself zooms around Edinburgh and the couple’s crazy weekend involving many colourful characters. Greig uses many effective storytelling methods throughout the piece; repetition of scenes from different people’s view, narration, a serious of monologues, flashbacks, changing of characters and an annual meeting inside Bob’s head.

Overall, Midsummer [a play with songs] is a beautiful little piece of theatre that suits the depressing times we live in now and through pieces like this we are able to use theatre as a form of escapism. It probably will not last more than this initial run, but for it was, it was very good.



3 Responses to “Midsummer [a play with songs] ****”

  1. 1 Cutting Edge

    I am unclear, why did you interpret Midsummer to be pantomime like? It may be November, but this play was far from being panto. CT

  2. 2 theatrefreak

    Hi CT,
    Thanks for your comment and of course you are entitled to disagree with me but let me defend my opinion a little, because maybe I was a little unclear.
    It wasn’t that I thought Midsummer was a panto as such, but more thought that the production left me with similar joyful feelings that I had as a child when I went to pantomimes.
    Some of the story telling techniques used in the production are also used in pantomimes; such as breaking of the fourth wall, involving the audience in the scenes, running through the audience and the very funny tangents (such as the blockbuster advert). Not to mention the happy ending, which in the performance I saw, prompted an ‘aww’ from some of the audience members. It is a modern fairy tale and I associate fairy tales with pantomimes.
    This production reminded me of the reasons I started loving theatre, even though now I cringe at pantomimes and I am not particular interested in seeing any this year. Most children start their relationship with theatre from their experiences at pantomimes. I found myself investing a lot of emotions into the characters in Midsummer, like I did as a child at my first pantomime.
    I hope I have been a little clearer now, as you are not the first person to challenge my comparison of Midsummer to pantomimes – but I really did love this production.
    Thank you again

  3. Just to say that I really liked your comparison with pantomime and took it to mean exactly as you’ve now expanded on above. I share the same affection for my childhood memories of seeing panto, but like you I would have to be dragged to see a ‘true’ panto these days (although there are plenty of fab Christmas shows about). If I was asked to suggest a show for someone seeing theatre for the first time, ‘Midsummer’ would be right at the top of my list. Just a totally joyous experience that absolutely involves the audience and leaves them with a warm glow.

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