The adorable Venya is a Jack Russell so talented that he can not only walk on his hind legs — a canine achievement once applauded by Dr Johnson — but on his front ones too. His antics are a highlight of an astonishing contribution to the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 from Chekhov International Theatre Festival, Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory and Moscow Theatre School of Dramatic Art. It’s at Stratford till Saturday and later (August 24-26) at the Edinburgh Festival. Don’t miss.

What I at first assumed would be a blend of two Shakespeare plays turns out to be a comic retelling of a small part of just one. This multi-talented Russian team, under Dmitry Krymov’s direction, acts out Dream’s Pyramus and Thisbe story, using huge puppets in the title roles, deftly manipulated by ten dinner-jacketed controllers. Meanwhile, other actors join the audience to inspect the drama, chipping in with comments as we go.

Liya Akhedzhakova all but steals the show at one point in her outraged reaction (and the bizarre tale this prompts) to the unfastening of Pyramus’s pants to reveal a vast phallus.

If this episode is not recalled from Shakespeare’s original, then neither is the appearance of two (excellent) opera singers, a bagpipe player, the quartet of cygnets from Swan Lake and acrobats (Anatoliy and Vladimir Shustov) so skilled they can balance upright head to head.

Venya (impeccably trained by Andrey Loshkin) is a waggy-tailed presence throughout, kept on the stage, I suspect, by the many edible treats scattered across it.

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