A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Prospero Players, at Newcastle Waldorf School, Glendale.
Ended April 29.
I saw this production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy at a matinee that had many very young audience members. The brightness of the costumes and sets gave the story the look of a fairy tale and they were engrossed by the antics of the fairies and the workmen who were would-be actors. Hopefully, they will remember this show when they get to study the Bard’s work in later years.
And while many people think that Shakespeare’s language is very much of times past, much of the dialogue in this staging had people young and old laughing loudly. There was, for example, a scene where Hermia and Helena, two young women who have fled with the men they love to escape parental marriage demands, argue when left together in a forest. Helena tells Hermia she doesn’t trust her and is moving on, and actress Jacqueline Chapman’s sharp delivery of her lines “Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray. My legs are longer though, to run away.” had a very contemporary feel. Likewise, when Bottom, one of a team of untalented workmen who rehearse a play in the forest in the hope of performing it at their Duke’s wedding, wakes from a sleep imposed on him by woodland fairies after their Queen is freed from a spell cast by her demanding husband, sees his experience as being a dream, and amusingly says that he will get a fellow workman “to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called Bottom's Dream, because it hath no bottom.” It is a corny line, but one that had watchers in hysterics.
This production was directed by Daniel Maslen, a recently retired English expert on eurythmy, an expressive movement art that was developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century, and which puts dance elements into movements. Maslen, who came to Australia to stage the play for Prospero Players, showed how well eurythmy could be incorporated into physical comedy, with the lovers’ antagonisms, the workmen’s lack of acting skills, and the fairies’ manipulation of the strangers in the forest having audience members in jolly laughter. Maslen also wrote the bright background music that was based on music from Shakespeare’s time. Costume and set designer Sophia Montefiore likewise drew on the rich styles of the Renaissance era and showed how timeless colourful fairy tales can be.