Iris Theatre’s Summer Season for 2021 opens with Queen Mab, written by Danielle Pearson and inspired by Mercutio’s speech in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Freya Roberts (played by Jo Patmore) is fifteen years old, living with her parents and twelve year old brother Jake. It’s the time of ‘a new plague’, a Covid lockdown, and Mab the fairy (played by Erica Flint) visits Freya as she sleeps.
When the teenager wakes up, mortal and immortal meet and become almost friends. Mab, who is ‘in her 500s’, spends her nights with the dreams and nightmares of humans, visiting each mind.
The other characters in Freya’s house are heard in audio form only, with young Jake represented by a toy dinosaur. There is also Ollie, the boy in class who Freya likes, and a couple of people referred to but never seen or heard.
Freya’s love of music (drums, guitar) allows her to bond with the curious fairy as Mab continues to observe and meddle. It also allows moments of song to conjure up the magic.
The garden at St Paul’s Church has been bautifully dressed by Isobel Nicholson to suggest both a girl’s bedroom and a garden full of secrets. There are suggestions of places to hide, and nooks in the space become gardens, bedroom landings, and more.
There are flowers, strips of material, and – an accidental quirk of the great outdoors – the sound of seagulls perhaps acknowledging that London is starting to wake up.
Mab has her own secrets, still carried with her from centuries past in the sting of romantic betrayal. It makes her feelings mortal, even if she ‘will never die’.
Patmore captures Freya’s awkwardness, curiosity and development very well. With mum and dad arguing over who claims the study to work from home, she retreats into her diary and fantasies about boys.
As Mab, Flint gives a Puckish performance and one which allows for quick physical movement and female connection. She crouches, creeps and conjures up moments which make the story feel real.
Her reaction to Swiss roll, the food which tempts her back in daylight, is funny; her description of her lost love, long gone as human life ‘passes in a heartbeat’, and who smelt of cloves, is haunting.
By the end, with Mab and Freya singing together, and the Roberts family changed forever, we almost believe. Not that clapping at our doors for the NHS can improve care (‘it’s not Peter Pan’) but that we can find our place and who we are.
Georgie Straight directs Queen Mab, with Sam Glossop contributing the evocative sound design. Flux Theatre and Arsalan Sarrari co-produce the show.
You can watch Queen Mab at the Iris Theatre, Covent Garden, until 26 June. Book your tickets here and experience the joy of theatre’s return to the great outdoors.
For more on the shows comprising Iris’s Summer Season, go here.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Queen Mab.