Monday, September 03, 2007

Midsummer Night's Dream @the Royal Botanical Garden

We saw The Pantaloon's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

They did some interesting things with umbrellas, as you can see in this clip - using them as both props and as a sort of wings to hide the actors, and also to assist with scene changes.

They also took liberties with the text, which I usually don't like, but I thought it worked fairly well here. They seemed to be aiming at an audience of children, clearly, by the little interlude they have between the rude mechanicals scene (Act II Scene 1) and the first appearance of Puck (Act II scene 2) where they demonstrate how to be a scary tree - and a scary shrub - and invite the audience to participate.

Outdoor park performances of Shakespeare really can't be too literal about the text because of the vexations of the great outdoors. Too often the audience can't hear half of what the actors are saying, and since many in the audience are not familiar with Shakespeare to begin with, but rather happened upon the show while strolling through the park with their kids, understand only half of what they CAN hear. If that.

So I generally liked this production, what I heard of it. At the end of this clip, I became very chilled due to the combination of light drizzle and wind and the fact that it was already about 68 degrees F. The rest of the audience seemed to be better-acclimated and hung in there.

One quibble though - if you're aiming at children, you do have to be a bit literal about the casting and characters. I don't think children follow the changes that the characters undergo, from being a rude mechanical one minute, to a fairy the next, if you're going to use the same actors wearing the same clothes. There's only so much you can do with umbrellas.

Below is the section of the play they are doing in the clip.

... In the meantime I
will draw a bill of properties, such as our play
wants. I pray you, fail me not.

We will meet; and there we may rehearse most
obscenely and courageously. Take pains; be perfect: adieu.

At the duke's oak we meet.

Enough; hold or cut bow-strings.


SCENE I. A wood near Athens.

Enter, from opposite sides, a Fairy, and PUCK
How now, spirit! whither wander you?

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone:
Our queen and all our elves come here anon.

The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;

Entire Midsummer Night's Dream here.