May 05, 2007

A Midsummer Night's Dream @ The Swan Theatre

I’ve raved about this production before, the greatest, or 2nd greatest (depending on my mood) production of the Complete Works Festival. It’s back for three sold-out weeks in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the production has gone from strength to strength since it was last here, playing to packed audience around the globe.

This is, of course, Tim Supple’s Dash Arts, with their multi-lingual Indian cast performing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It’s a sublime piece of theatre, combining jaw-dropping visual spectacle, fascinating textual interpretation, deeply affecting music and brilliant performances. It’s garnered five star reviews wherever it goes, standing ovations and a genuine sense of crossover- this is a production which all audiences can enjoy. It doesn’t offend those who dislike Shakespeare being translated, it doesn’t pander to any sense of tradition, it doesn’t mess with the text or allow itself to become tied up by it. It does its own thing, creating something completely new in the spirit of Shakespeare, and impeccably balances between opposing viewpoints. It is, in point of fact, the production which sits at the exact point where all the conflicting arguments I talked about in my previous post meet. I’ve yet to meet anyone who dislikes it, and I would really like to sit down and talk to anyone who did.

I digress, however. The great thing about seeing a production multiple times is the opportunity to look more closely at some of the subtleties- or, in this case, the not-so-subtleties. The aggressive sexuality of this production was quite shocking, with Demetrius almost raping Hermia and Helena actually succumbing to Lysander’s affections, the two of them quite clearly about to have sex before Demetrius interrupted them. What came across were the fleeting affections of these youths, all highly sexually charged and led purely by their libidos. In the incredible scene where Puck filled the stage with tape, impeding the lovers’ progress, their many frustrations and confusions became physically realities as they stumbled over each other, prevented by Puck’s restrictions from being able to reach each other or make any meaningful contact. This all added to the sense of restoration as the couples were arranged in pairs, hanging in the framework of the stage to be discovered by Theseus and Hippolyta.

The final song didn’t quite draw tears from me this time, but it remained a very emotional scene, as the dancers brought candles in and blessed the house in beautiful harmony. The dance contrasted effectively with the more animalistic dance of the reunited Oberon and Titania, pawing the ground around each other and rolling in the dust while the fairies whooped and clapped.

I think I’ve said enough. This production, to me, is what theatre is all about, and I urge people to track it down. Excitingly, the director is coming to the CAPITAL Carnival on May 13th, and even though I’ve heard him speak a couple of times I’m really looking forward to hearing him talk again about his methods.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Katy

    I think it was a fantastic show, although it was a bit more sexual than i thought it would be!

    15 May 2007, 17:41

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Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

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