Call me an optimist but I was still hoping for a happy ending in To Dream Again at the Polka Theatre. When it didn’t happen I took a moment to readjust and realised that the message of the play was not that a floundering relationship could be mended by a fairy and a sprinkle of magic, but that sometimes a couple is better off apart. A marriage break-up can be a frightening and unsteady time for children, but in To Dream Again Sophie (Hannah Hutch) is shown that sometimes parents have to separate, and it does not mean that they do not love her any the less.
To Dream Again is lightly inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Writer Toby Hulse borrows the characters of Helena (Rebecca Pownall) and Demetrius (Matt Addis) and uses the themes of magic and love, dreams and wakefulness, and mixes in some love potion to create this story about Sophie and her parents. It starts in a real-life, albeit slightly lopsided, house where Sophie’s family is having trouble with the heating. A domestic argument about calling the plumber outlines the fact that Sophie’s parents are not getting on (“I will do it as I do everything around here!” says Helena the mother resignedly). As Sophie and Helena talk, Helena is melancholy about the fact that you cannot go back in time, not now that there is no magic left in the relationship. Sophie, however, insists on their going back to the beginning, to when Helena and her husband Demetrius first met…
Meanwhile, the plumber has arrived, who looks more like a giant male fairy wearing a loud comedy shirt, dungarees and a tutu around his neck. ‘Robin Goodfellow’ (Elliot Rodriguez) is quite patently not the type of plumber you would call in an emergency, but still we are hoping he might be able to perform a miracle for Sophie’s sake.
The most magical part of the play is when reality shifts to a dream world, which is first done when the floor boards are lifted to stand straight upwards to look like trees, revealing lights underneath them, and the background turns into a white forest. Robin Goodfellow repeats what Sophie’s father had said, that there are house fairies who are there in every house to help keep the peace; they have been leaving notes for Sophie under the rug, and Sophie has been waiting for a reply.
Suddenly Goodfellow is speaking in Shakespearean verse, and then Sophie’s parents stumble into the forest, as if they are in a (midsummer night’s) dream. The sequence which follows is a bit confusing as it alternates between one or other of them being affected by the love potion made by the love in idleness flower. Sophie is just impatient for everything to be fixed so that they will love each other again.
Needless to say, there is not enough magic to make these two fall in love with each other again. Sophie sadly comes to realise that her parents will not love each other like they used to do, but that they can still love her just the same.
My son did not like Sophie’s squeaky voice and chortly laugh, and the early scenes with Robin Goodfellow in his plumber phase are overlong and annoying in their repetitiveness, but apart from that the performances are nice. More importantly, the message is a good and comforting one to anyone going through this type of crisis in their own family.
hattydaze rating: ***/*****
I attended To Dream Again on a press ticket. To Dream Again was at the Polka Theatre until 2nd April 2017. For more information about the Polka Theatre, see their website.