Last Saturday I went to go see 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at her Majesty's Theatre, as part of the Adelaide Bank Festival of the Arts. Before I go into it, can I jsut say that I love living in Adelaide? This was a world renowned show, and I got in for $25, since I am 'Youth' (This used to mean under 24, but it has been upped to under 30. I'm not sure what that says.) Adelaide prides itself on this kind of thing, and SA likes to be called 'The Festival State'. I don't know how true that rings, but it sure beats 'City of Churches' or 'City of Roses' or 'Capital of crazy wierd murders and disappearances'
So, anyway. The show is a bit arty farty, done in a bunch of different langauges. I didn't reread it beforehand, because I have seen it performed a couple times, and also I find it really boring on the page. Partly because I don't really like any of the characters except Oberon and Puck. I mean, Dimitrius leaves whichever H-name girl (You can so tell I care, non?) is in love with him in the forest, all alone! After he attacks her! And yet I'm supposed to be glad when they get together in the end. Becuase he's under a spell. Which other people have been put under, and when it's taken off they see it as a dream. So now he's walking around, not really being himself. Which i don't care much about, because I think he's a stinker, even if he is an Ancient Greek, but then I have to think about 'what does love mean' and 'how do our emotions change us'. Which is fine, but don't expect me to look at a cast of characters living a lie and expect to get all soppy.
ANYWAY. So, the point is, I didn't reread it. And as soon as I sat down in the theatre I thought 'shit. I don't remember a thing about the plot.' But it turns out, it didn't really matter. There was a last minute addition to our party who didn't know anythign about the plot, and he struggled, but I think if you've read a paragraph-long synopsis, you'll be fine.
All the important plot points, and famous lines, were in the original English. Hermia, Helena, Titania and Bottom speak almost exclusively English. And, given the impenatrability of some of Shakespeare's language if you haven't read a footnoted version, I don't think it suffered that much. Some of the languages were beautiful - I'd love to know who was speaking what. It perhaps would have been better if I didn't live in a large apartment building full of people who speak other languages, many of whom are Indian. In that way, it was kind of like a usual Saturday night for me, except they weren't playing the same bollywood song over and over and over, and I wasn't trying to sleep. However, I do try and kind of treat where I live as live theatre anyway, so I guess that works out well (that might need a whole post) The night after, I made sure to pay attention to what I could hear from my flat. The Indian couple on the left were watching a Romantic Comedy. The Chinese couple on the right were watching a horror flick. Upstairs there was Bollywood music. Downstairs there swas an accordian (and much yelling of 'puta!') That's where I live.
ANYWAAAAY. So, the language was not an issue for me, in fact I kind of liked it. I find a lot of the long impassioned speeches boring, which is one of the reasons this isnot one of my favourites. At least in another language, you could just listen to the rythms (which is half the point anyway) and there was always enough going on peripherally to give you something to look at.
The costumes were unbelieveably gorgeous. All indain silks and bright colours and bling. Puck (who is always the high point for me) was FANTASTIC. The faries were great - hard core, you know? These were no wishy washy, tulle-wearing fantasms. These were trouble-making, mean-business faeries, the ones that English and Celtic culture used to have, before modernity diluted them. They were all male, except Peasblossom, who was totally awesome. I liked that Titania's entourage was not silly and sulky, like they're usually played. In fact, she was much more of a sympathetic character in general than I usaully find her. Much more of a faerie queen. Bottom was also fantastic. Extremely charismatic, not just a stupid buffoon, but a peasant with pretensions, someone with force, who, given the right circumstances and education, might have been Someone to Reckon With.
The set was made up of a pit of sand (no shoes were worn throughout - my kind of performance) and the backdrop was a bamboo scaffolding. To begin with, this was covered with paper, through which teh faeries made their entrance, tumbling and clambering and screeching and laughing. So much movement and colour. The set was used extremely well - possibly my most favourite part was when teh four lovers are chasing each other - Puck is walking calmly round the action, setting up poles all around the sand. He then ran elastic bands around and around and around, to make a webby maze, through which the actors stumbled and climbed, trying to get at each other for kisses and caresses or blows. Then, when it becomes obvious that he's blinded the wrong man with the love spell, Oberon chases and hunched and sheeping Puck around the same maze.
All the actors were extremely nimble - not only the fairies, but also teh mortals, entered and exited through teh scaffolding, at different hights, adding drama to the moonlight chase through the woods. There were also ropes and fabric from above, which were climbed and slept in. All of the actors were extremely fit and attaractive... not that I noticed... *cough*
All in all, it was magical experience. I once went to go see this performed in the Botanic gardens, where the fairies climbed the trees and ran amok. This had all that magic, and more. The one single downside was that the actors were perhaps too impassioned at times, so that you couldn't tell when they really meant something. There was no modulation. But whatever.
If you can, I would strongly recommend you see this. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Just read the synopsis first.