Theatre Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare. Direction, design and lighting by Guy De Lancey. With Adam Neill, Danieyella Rodin, Jeroen Kronenburg, Andrew Laubscher, Emily Child, Shaun Acker, Julia Anastasopoulos, Scott Sparrow, Adrian Collins, Tinarie Van Wyk Loots, Dorian Burstein, Vaneshran Arumugam, Mikkie-Dene le Roux, Carel Nel, Carl van Vrede and John Skotnes. Costumes by Tinarie Van Wyk Loots. At The Intimate Theatre until 31 March, at 7:30pm. ASTRID STARK reviews

First published in he Cape Times, 9 March 2011

Mechanical Madness

Guy De Lancey uses his wicked imagination in, what he calls, ‘a hallucinogenic rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. De Lancey’s interpretation of the play is rather dark, very sexy, and nothing short of structured madness. He uses the full cast of the Mechanicals to recreate Shakespeare’s play which is filled with magic spells, jilted lovers, blind obsession, fairies and even a play within the play.

Julia Anastasopoulos and Shaun Acker

Hermia, played by Emily Child, is given four days to choose between the man her father wants her to wed, life in a nunnery, or certain death.  She flees into the forest with her lover, Lysander as played by Andrew Laubscher, to escape the madness.  They are followed by another tormented couple, Helena and Demetrius.  Meanwhile back in the forest, the King and Queen of Fairies have their own volatile issues to deal with.  The King of the Fairies decides to employ the naughty Puck to sprinkle a love potion on the various couples, and the Queen of the Fairies, which will make them fall in love with the first person they see upon wakening.  Chaos ensues as the whole plan goes belly-up.

That the young team of Mechanicals are a sexy and very hot-blooded group of actors cannot be disputed and De Lancey seems to have taken full advantage of their youth and fervour.  Emily Child as the distraught Hermia looks a bit like rocks star Courtney Love and her appearance, very effectively, deteriorates as the lunacy unfolds.  She looks fantastic in a red dress with her bleached white hear teased to a radiating halo around her tormented face.  Tinarie Van Wyk Loots is equally grungy in her Gothic black robe and morbid presentation of Titania. She looks like a tormented Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Andrew Laubscher has a strangely fascinating presence about him; he seems to flip from intensely involved to curiously bored, in a heartbeat.  His performance as Lysander is intense and enjoyable.   Jeroen Kronenburg brings to his role as Hermia’s father a wealth of experience and a dash of twisted humour. Adrian Collins makes a great Puck and Dorian Burstein as the curious fairy has to be seen to be believed.

Instead of the various couples falling in love, as usually interpreted in the play, De Lancey let his actors fall deeply in lust. There is a lot of gyrating, kissing, and slapping as the lusty bunch under the spell of the wicked love potion try to get closer to each other.  Shakespearian purists may balk at this point, however I felt that it’s an interesting approach to the play; focusing on the blind obsession of love and lust, the power of suggestion and the disparity between the conscious and the unconscious minds.   The couples may be lustily groping each other but in their eyes you can see them agonise over losing control of their emotions.

Tinarie Van Wyk Loots and Scott Sparrow

In the middle of all this obsessive groping, a group of players are rehearsing for a production of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, which they will perform at the Duke’s wedding.   The play tells the tale of the ill-fated lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, but of course with a twist. There is a cowardly lion, a strange mad guy who wears pants with a pink embroidered prawn on it and he has a hard time trying to keep his false teeth from falling out, a starveling, and a talking wall. The play within a play takes on a mad psychedelic air filled with characters that are at once monstrous and tragic.

The stage design is enchanting with its enormous mirror and satin curtains as backdrop.  The lighting evokes a magical atmosphere in which the characters seem to thrive.  The biggest attraction of this play is the very psychotic approach to the material by the actors and the director. I love the fact that the Mechanicals are self-funded and fiercely independent. Their unique approach to the material they have chosen to produce may at times upset conformists, however, their off-centre approach always provides us with an alternative view into the world and the lives of their characters. De Lancey has succeeded in creating a dreamscape where madness, love, desire, greed and obsession are all shook up and let loose with careless abandon.  It may not strictly be the Shakespeare you expected, but it certainly makes for a very entertaining night out.

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