E4's Udderbelly is a large tent in the shape of an upside-down purple cow, residing near the London Eye for the next couple of months (I think it then moves to Edinburgh for the Festival.) It mainly seems to be featuring one-off comedy and the headline act is a free-running show (rather apt for the location, given how popular the Southbank Centre buildings seem to be for parkour.) It's also meant to be a family venue though so as well as the food stalls and beer garden (which is quite shaded so will probably be quite a good place on hot days) there's those giant Connect 4 sets for the kids. Obviously they're monopolised by adults but you know, it could have been worse, it could be giant Jenga - then the kids would have no
chance of having a go. Accordingly inside the tent itself there's a selection of family-friendly shows, the first of which comes from Edward Hall's all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller.A Midsummer Night's Dream
is one of the various Shakespeare plays I seem likely to see more than once this year, and following a recent full-scale production, Hall has reduced the cast to six (Richard Dempsey, Vince Leigh, Tam Williams, Babou Ceesay, Alasdair Craig and Jonathan McGuinness) and the running time to 60 minutes to create Pocket Dream
as an introduction to Shakespeare. Although there are a few instances where the story is explained in modern language to help speed things up and clarify them for the younger viewers, the majority of the text remains Shakespeare's. As usual, the approach of not patronising the audience seems to work and while the production is essentially playful it doesn't have an element of talking down to the kids. Dream
has a lot of running around and confusion so, added to the multiple doubling of roles I'm not sure kids (or even adults unfamiliar with the story) could have told you exactly what had happened afterwards but it didn't seem to matter. Sadly tonight's performance wasn't well-attended but of the children who were
there, a couple down the row from me (who seemed younger than the recommended minimum of 9 years old) seemed to be enjoying it, and the older boy especially frequently chuckled at Leigh's Bottom. For people familiar with the story this is an entertaining riff on the play; for older children I would say that (and regular readers will know I frequently disagree with shows that make this claim) in this case I agree that it's a good introduction to Shakespeare: It's fun, frantic and modern but doesn't make the assumption that children will be alienated if you stick to the script for the most part.Pocket Dream
by William Shakespeare, adapted by Roger Warren, is in repertory until the 14th of May at Udderbelly. The Udderbelly
Festival continues at the Southbank Centre until the 17th of July.