Last year, Bill Buckhurst and Tooting Arts Club staged the brilliant Barbarians, Barrie Keefe's ode to boyhood and growing up in slightly-less-than-salubrious surroundings, which went on to be nominated for a dozen Off West End awards and won the lead, Thomas Coombes, a well-deserved Best Actor gong. This success is down to the perfect interplay between actors, director, script and setting, with Tooting's Temple Studios working as the perfect backdrop to youths in the 70s and 80s struggling with money and race. And now, the same team have come together to present Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the result is still a hit, if not so palpable a one.

The problem, and it's really one of the only problems here, is that A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the most overperformed plays in the English language. Most audiences know it well enough to quote it (even those who aren't thespianic cynics like this reviewer), and Buckhurst's attempts to add something new to the script here often rely on surprise, as well as a very modern and bouncy take on the classic. This, when it works, is an utter joy, but there are too many moments when this feels like a gimmick.

For example, the scenes between the four lovers are, simply put, outstanding. With three actors only just out of drama school, the exceptional quality of the scenes and complicated interchanges is an utter delight; Waleed Akhtar may be one of the finest young Asian actors of his generation, but Racheal Ofori, Kathryn Perkins and Declan Perring all give him a serious run for his money. The complicated interchange when all four find each other in the woods and romance is still complex fully deserved the ovation it got mid-play.

Buckhurst has also found a pleasant and sensible modern vernacular for the piece by putting the lovers in school-uniforms: the decision to run away from home and elope makes so much more sense for college students, as does the addition of cell phones, suitcases, and other modern paraphernalia. But he doesn't just stop there: the rude mechanicals are also all modernised (although, seemingly, not in line with their original jobs), and the fairies and "creatures of the night" are very much of the night-club variety.

And it all works. It all clicks together: the sticking points of "magic" and the like are elided by the dint of the fairies looking so out-of-this-world, and the modernity lends itself to the breakneck pace Buckhurst has created – the play zings by, with the small cast of 8 covering all roles more than ably.But this is where the piece starts to feel more gimmicky. The show opens with a presentation from the company, but it's done in a comic, performative way, making it unclear whether this is a dramatic framework or just a gag. The action travels all over the studios, from the performance space into the courtyard and back again, and this felt less like a decision that benefitted the production and more like showing off – the new locations certainly didn't add anything specific to the scenes they were used in. The splattering of rain didn't help either. 

And with the cast doubling/tripling up, there are some caricatures: Waleed Elgadi's "serious" Theseus, "camp" Peter Quince and "street" Oberon, for example, are just too try-hard, although a physically energetic performance from Richard James-Neale as Puck and Christopher Knott's older Cockney Bottom are nice twists on such over-performed characters.

Much here is hugely impressive: Tooting Arts Club can clearly bat with the big boys off-West-End, and here's to more of the same. Although I would urge more of a focus on new pieces/revivals of neglected gems: the Shakespearean choice here feels a bit trite, and the elements that let this production down are the inserts to try and make this safe choice of script more exciting.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, at Tooting Arts ClubChris Hislop reviews A Midsummer Night's Dream at Tooting Arts Club.4