It’s unfortunate that a team of great actors who took part in this production, known as one of Shakespeare’s most popular, were let down by a “back to basics” vision from director Dash Kruck.
Presented by Starlight Theatre Co-OpCentre Stage Theatre, Spring Hill QLD Thursday, 13 May, 2010 It’s unfortunate that a team of great actors who took part in this production, known as one of Shakespeare’s most popular, were let down by a “back to basics” vision from director Dash Kruck.
Kruck has stripped the show bare in an attempt to draw focus to the text and allow audiences to use their imagination. But in a dream world with mystical fairies, romance and games, a usual highlight of the play is bright costumes and an elaborate setting. If it was a patron’s first time seeing the classic, I doubt they would have even got a taste of the enchanting fairy woods. While I appreciate the challenge Kruck has set for himself, it is perhaps better left for Shakespeare’s more fearsome pieces.
The show opens with Theseus, the Duke of Athens and his wife-to-be Hippolyta. They are to be wed in four days, however, today the Duke’s attention is turned to the trouble between Hermia and her father. Hermia shares a forbidden love with Lysander, but her father demands she wed her admirer Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander plan to flee Athens to be together, but are followed by Demetrius and Helena. Demetrius hopes to bring Hermia home to marry, Helena, who he despises, has other ideas. In the forest, the King and Queen Fairies, Oberon and Titania are arguing and Oberon plots to make Titania fall in love with the first creature she sees. Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena become entangled in this plan when Puck takes his own initiative with the magical flower he has been instructed to use on Titania. Meanwhile, a group of mechanicals are working on a production of Pyramus and Thisbe, which they are to later perform at Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s wedding.
Kruck’s decision to have a cast of seven play the twenty-two roles worked really well. An opaque black mesh covered the back of the stage where costume changes took place. This allowed for smooth transitions, although sometimes broke the focus when actors changing characters was partly visible. Performer of the night was by far Ashleigh Dwyer as Helena. Her interpretation of the Shakespearean text was natural and her comedy timing was perfect. Chris Vaag didn’t make a mark in his leading role as Demetrius, however was an absolute joy as Bottom, the loveable prima donna mechanical. His death scene along-side Daniel Johnston, as Theseus, had me in tears of laughter. Nicole Bilson was adorably amicable as the mechanicals’ director Quince, and Caroline Levien an enjoyably forthright and bold Titania.
Basic get-up for the actors was pyjama pants and black T-shirts – a clear reference to the idea of the dreaming state. With the small cast playing several roles each, it was essential to have something easily inter-changeable. Many characters were often required to transform from fairies to Athenians. However, this didn’t mean the outfits had to be dull. Costumes by Geena Luckin included dressing gowns with bits of material sewn on for a fairy wings that just didn’t do the roles justice. They are mischievous, bright and fun creatures and their costumes didn’t reflect this. It was the same problem was with cheeky fairy Puck’s outfit. Belinda Small bounded around in a plain blue jump-suit that looked like something a giant baby would wear. Sashes for the King and Queen also could have been replaced with something more eye-catching.
Set design was two levels with a staircase down either side. Having the upper level was really unnecessary as it was barely used. It wasn’t a practical setting for a story that primarily takes place in the magical woods. It was unadorned apart from four hanging sheets and an upright bed that was centre stage. Again, the bed was hardly used and was mostly an obstruction in the way of the performers.
Lighting design by Matthew Strachan, executed well by Jesse Bradford and Jose De Andrade, created at least some colour and a playful atmosphere on stage.
It was a shame to see what was potentially a magical piece of theatre turned into something quite lifeless.
Until the 29th of May 2010 Bookings at www.oztix.com.au