A Midsummer Nights Dream

Her Majesty's Theatre

When you are attending a production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, you can often say with conviction that you know what you are in for. This however is not the case with A Dash Arts Production of the Bard’s famous comic work.
Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre for the Adelaide Festival Season 2008, director Tim Supple has produced a work of Shakespeare unlike any seen before. The dazzling production made up of a cast entirely of Indian and Sri Lankan performers has everything from acrobatics, dance and traditional music to fight sequences, love scenes and song. But there is a twist! At least 80% of the dialogue is NOT traditional Shakespearian English – the actors use their native tongue and deliver lines in Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi, Sinhalese and some Sanskrit.

This inventive way of altering dialogue to fit with a more cultural portrayal of the piece serves to both enhance and distract from the piece.
Although this is not the first time Shakespeare has been spoken in another language, it is the first time it has been delivered to a predominantly English speaking audience without the aid of subtitles. Any audience member unfamiliar with the production could be forgiven for losing the plot (no pun intended) and it was evident how the lack of understanding alienated some theatre goers who decided not to return after the interval.

But for lovers of the work it was an unforgettable experience! The production was lively, exciting, colorful and invigorating. At times it was sexually explicit, in stark contrast to the Yohangza Theatre Company’s Korean production of the piece in 2007, and the unfamiliar dialect forced the audience to concentrate on the action.

The cast consists of acrobats, dances and actors both classically and traditionally trained who where hand selected from auditions of over 800 performers in 9 cities across India and Sri Lanka, and there diversity and skill speaks volumes.

The set was a bamboo construction covered in white paper through which the fairies propelled themselves early in the first act, slowly removing all the paper throughout the show to reveal the structure behind. Musicians were placed either side of the earth stage creating ambient rhythms with crude and professional percussion instruments and the actors were clad in colorful Bollywood style gowns both extravagant and simple in their elegance.

Outstandingly good was Ajay Kumar as ‘Puck’ and Philostrate. Kumar’s ‘Puck’ played visually with the lovers during their fight scene to great effect – involving and drawing the audience into his mischief. Joy Fernandes as ‘Bottom’ was also a crowd pleaser, delivering his character quite straight he still managed to win the audiences affections, not to mention waves of laughter and applause.

If you are familiar with A Midsummer Night’s dream this production will be an enjoyable and refreshing variation to whet your Shakespeare appetite, if not, then read up on the plot before you venture into the theatre! 4 STARS

Paul Rodda