A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 18, 2009 at 1:04 am | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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August 15, 2009 by Show_Hanger

The other night I went to Toi Whakaari‘s – New Zealand Drama School – production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Previous productions that I have seen did not really hold my attention, but I was intrigued by the billing around “circus and burlesque”. so off I went.

There was an air of expectiaon in the lobby, and when we were allowed in the theatre space, there was more promise – circular seating: theatre in the round with just a hint of a circus tent.

The plot is quite convoluted: Hermia has two suitors – Lysander and Demetrius; Helena her friend has none – Demetrius having transfered his affection to Hermia; Lysander and Hermia run away, because Egeus (Hermia’s brother) favours Demetrius; in the woods Lysander and Demetrius are bewitched into loving Helena; and by the time it is all sorted out out Lysander is back with Hermia and Demetrius is back with Helena; oh, someone else is turned into a donkey; and there is a play within a play.

The directing team – Josette Bushell-Mingo and her assistant Julian Pellizzaro – are to be thoroughly congratulated. The circus and burlesque techniques fit perfectly into the story; they are not a clever contrivance that stands out. Of course fairies waft through the air on tissu. Of course mischeivous sprites are nasty clowns. Burlesque makes the lovers and attractions a little earthy, but its what happens in the darkly enchanted forrest at night! Bottom and Titanias’ attraction to each other is a physical attraction – it is not the plutonic attraction more often seen in BBC-type productions – the burlesque approach removes all doubt as to what they are really getting up to.

Deborah Pope is to congratulated for teaching the drama students circus skills and polishing them to a performance standard, and not doubt working the circus into the wider play. The drama students are to be congratulated for mastering circus techniques and employing these in the play. Particularly: the tissu performers; Moana Ete’s suspened hoop work, as Titania; Jonathan Kenyon’s juggling as Lysander; and Tola Newbery’s stilt walking and bullwhip work, as Oberon.

I was so engaged that I took in the final play-within-a-play segment, which seemed like of a teaser for Romeo and Juliet. The casting of Tom Snout, the wall, played by Esmee Myers, as a mime artist was brilliant; as was the casting of Francis Flute, Thisbe, played by Sam Wang, as a kabuki player.

Three characters really stood out: Helena (played by Chelsea Bognuda), (Nick) Bottom (played by James Tito) and Puck (played by Micheal Leota). I found Puck a little too tragic; I prefer my Pucks more on the micheivous side. Bottom was just perfect. And Helena was how I imagined she would be.

Definitely worth going to; the theatre in the round combined with the earthy circus/burlesque approach, made for a ‘as Shakespeare probably staged it’ feel. I felt like I should have thrown money at the end!!

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