A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. The Looking Glass directed by Catherine Jean-Krista.National Shakespeare Festival at Gorman House Arts Centre January 18 - February 20, 2000, 7pm.
An interesting design idea, in 1920's style all in black and white, is the successful original spark in this production. However, though there is well-played comedy among the four lovers, there is not the real magic which the topsy-turvey nature of midsummer's night should create.
Jean-Krista and The Looking Glass's Artistic Director, Nicholas Bolonkin, have cut the play for touring, removing the rude mechanicals to "focus this production on the epic, natural, and supernatural themes". The effect, to my mind, has been to reduce the lovers to the mechanicals' level of rudeness - often very funny, indeed; while the Oberon/Theseus - Titania/Hyppolyta conflict left me cold rather than disturbed at the cosmic level.
Shakespeare deliberately contrasted the foolish but warm-hearted lower class with the foolish but basically selfish upper class, linked by Puck the intelligent "fool" from the other world, which is equally at the mercy of the failure of love to run smooth. With one of these dramatic elements missing (Bottom is represented but out of his proper context) other creative sparks were intermittent. Ritualised movement and tableaux were sometimes effective, especially in the final scene. Puck's fluid and often sexual movement worked well in general but at times Peter Hansen had to work a bit too hard to get effect. The recorded sound represented the action, but I feel would have been more telling if it had been in keeping with the 1920's visual style, and preferably played live.
In the final analysis I enjoyed the lovers most, perhaps giving the edge to Hermia (Claire Bocking) and Demetrius (James Inabinet) who picked up and ran with their characters - a seriously sophisticated flapper, and a dotty plus-fours flappy twit. And the supernatural did appear, in the guise of the sulphur-crested cockatoo who joined in the dialogue, and the wind-gust which ended the action and introduced "If we shadows have offended..."
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream are on different nights each week, so ring Looking Glass on 6257 7973 for details.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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