A Midsummer Night’s Dream
August 11, 2016 at 12:25 PM
In an age when our communications are fast becoming foreshortened to texts and tweets, with language being simplified by the minute, it was a pleasure this week to watch our Senior School Drama students take on the rich language of Shakespeare and deliver a compelling performance.
One of Shakespeare’s most popular works for the stage, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is generally celebrated for its ethereal characters, forest-bower setting and poetic lyricism. Whilst the poetic lyricism stayed, Saint Kentigern definitely stamped its own mark on the Bard’s famous work!
Making Shakespeare relevant to today’s audiences and young thespians sometimes needs that ‘extra spark’ and so in recent years, Shakespeare has had a thorough reworking for each of the College adaptations. In 2008, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was set in a sports stadium and the Capulets and Montagues reimagined as to arrival hockey teams. In 2010, ‘Much ado about what you will’ took a walk down Medieval streets where no Shakespearian stone was left unturned. In 2013, ‘The Tempest’ fast forwarded 400 years to a hip-swinging, rock and roll beach setting. The following year, ‘Othello’ was revised for a post-apocalyptic, steam punk, techno-Victorian world.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a convoluted plot with multiple twists and turns to keep the audience puzzling, however, few would have guessed the chosen setting for this year’s production. Ancient Greece made way for the brashness of New York’s Times Square and Central Park, with skyscrapers, hot dog stands and a kaleidoscope of billboards. As the actors arrived on stage through a subway entrance, it immediately became apparent that this production was paying homage to the 1980’s, recreating the cultural landscape of Ziggy Stardust and Iggy Pop; a time when eccentric behaviour and flamboyant fashion defined the counter-culture of the time.
Known for delivering fantastic costumes, show Director, Ms Emma Bishop did not disappoint. Juxtaposed against the ‘preppie’ street clothes of the ‘mortals and mechanicals,’ Ms Bishop’s punk-attired fairies delivered a hard stand! There was no fluttering prettily when these Doc Martin, chain clad, ripped and torn, ‘don’t mess with us’ spirits arrived! Matis Ellehaus as the Fairy King, Oberon and Erin Meek, as his queen, Titania, delivered their squabbling roles furiously and faultlessly.
With many strong and challenging parts on offer, the love quartet of Hermia (Isabella Denholm), Demetrius (Alasdair Carmichael-Lowe), Lysander (Brayden Bruce) and Helena (Jaymee Brearly) were well-cast putting forward four strong character actors to unravel the course of true love.
In the chaos of the action, a group of ‘mechanicals’ (craftsmen) led by Bottom (Braydon Robinson) and Quince (Callum Bishop) were earnestly preparing a play within a play to perform at the Duke and Duchess’s wedding. Their main role, however, was to offset the lovers’ emotional angst with slapstick humour. Puck, one of Oberon’s fairy clan, played brilliantly by Hannah Lamberton, tries to bring the four young lovers into compatible couples but makes an error of judgement that gives Braydon’s character, Bottom, a second life as a donkey caught in the love tangle. Braydon is well known for his delivery of larger than life characters and once again gave his all to the role.
Bookending the play in the daylight hours, the fourth group, the ‘mortals’ bring calm to the stage. Rafe McDonald as Theseus and the poised Francesca Armstrong as his fiancée, Hippolyta, give a glimpse of a privileged life attended to by Philostrate (Matthew Farnell) and a trio of assistants (Jordana Grant, Lauren Aspoas and Stephanie Ramlose). Their final appearance brings the chaos of the previous night to a close leaving the last words to Puck.
‘If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.’
The entire cast and crew loved staging this production. The end result was a faithful reading of the play, skilfully combined with an overlay of the 80’s, with live music provided by Sam Elliot as the Bowie-singing Robin Starvelling. Behind the scenes, visionary director, Mrs Emma Bishop and her creative team are to be congratulated for having the ambition and skill to bring such an audacious adaptation to life!
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