Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Now and Then


Bryan and I went to the theatre last Saturday and watched  A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A good way to round off  a weekend don’t you think? And before it is too late, I must get this blogged  and urge you to get down to the theatre NOW to see the show.

Bottom and Titania and fairies

Helena and Hermia                 Demitrius and Lysander

A bit of Then
Forgive me for a moment as I meander for a bit into the past. Many, many, years ago (in 1985) Bryan landed the role of  Demetrius in the Harare Reps production of the play. Around that time I was officially upgraded from "not knowing what the hell was the deal" to being Bryan’s Girlfriend, or was it the other way around...? As a consequence I was keeping a beady hawk  eye on any and all  potential competition. In this instance  Trish Townley and Debbie Brinkworth who played  Helena and Hermia ( I can’t remember who played who)  lest my recently landed quarry  (Bryan) be snatched out from under me by one of these vivacious and  rather lovely young ladies. We are all still  friends. As it happened Helena married Oberon. I  have a  few odd looking pictures taken back stage. I still remember Tony Gaynor playing Bottom in a stunning, milked for all its worth performance. But that was then  - so back to the here and now.
Bryan and Tony Gaynor and Vince Gray and Debbie Brinkworth (1985)
Bloody rude mechanicals, Alan Parky and Bryan ( 1985)
Here and Now
This show got off to an original start  with the audience being  serenaded   by Theseus’ silver tongue and a charming supportive Hippolyta. If you go, listen to the words the cheeky man is singing……. The set was littered with players casually and quietly  going about their business. All this as the audience entered the theatre and found seats. At the call of “beginners on stage” from somewhere in the depths of beyond the actors removed themselves from the set and we were ready to go. What a  lovely start to the evening.
I loved the costumes - what a great idea, they worked so well. Sort of 1950’s  with a twist of picnic Boho chic (?). Waistcoats and handkerchiefs and layers of stiff petticoats under lovely darted and pleated dresses. Just charming. I loved the use of flats for Hermia and high daddy long legs heels for Helena to emphasis the height difference - so apt and well done. Hair and make-up full marks. From the dapper costumes of Theseus ( loved the cravat) and Egeus to the chic and suavely dressed Hippolyta to the  slinky Titania and the rustic “rude mechanicals” the costumes were a delight. Once again Dubai Drama Group have not let us know who to attribute the costumes to. I think  the identity of their consume person is a closely guarded secret.  Whoever you are good job done.
The idea of crates stacked up for the set  was inspired, I thought. What a great idea to have  a crate concept for a Theatre Group that does not have a home base where your set could be part of your storage and changed for each production. I was off on a day dream of  ideas of what I thought would be done in the this play and this space and was so looking forward to seeing my imaginings come to life. Hummmm the set was not utilised nearly enough. So much more could have been done with the boxes. I did, of course, love the conversion of box to boudoir for Titania. That was lovely. I would have liked to see our actors draped over the boxes more. No matter, it did not detract from the show. I just think the blocking was, for the main, part uninspired. There were too many straight lines. I also did not like the actors in the last scene sitting as the audience with their backs  to us - the actual audience. I get what the idea was but I really did not like it. As an audience member I  want to see the faces of the actors who are on stage most of the time and staring at the back of heads is not okay by me.
The mood lighting was lovely and soft. I liked that. The moon needed a bit of work. It did not move or change in brightness  at all. Again not a big deal but I did notice.
In this production I would say that the ladies stole the show. Whilst everyone gave credible performances the gals charmed me. Brooke Butterworth (as Titania) giving a delightfully physical performance throughout and here I have to highlight her seduction scene ( if I may call it that) with Ciaran Mulhern  as Bottom. All that cooing and shoe removing and flinging was charming. Just the right amount of innuendo, stroking and pause.  
Jennifer Cooper took what I have always found to be a bit of an annoying character, somewhat lacking in empathetic value and turned Helena into a quirkily delightful  and sympathetic part. Her performance was charmingly gauche. All long legs and messy and oh so funny.  Olivia Middleton’s Hermia was a delightful counter point to Helena -these two ladies were a super duper treat to watch.   
I have to say something here for the fairies. All of the actresses playing the fairies had such lovely expressions and they were hidden behind the puppets most of the time. What a complete waste of their talent. The puppets added nothing to the production. A case of a good idea in the wrong show.
The cast of characters for the “play within a play” were just right and  Hani Yakan  with his 5 o’clock shadowed beard and manly brow was an incongruous and comic Thisbe. The matching of ironic physical traits  to characters was thoughtfully cast.  The groups worked well together and were a pleasure to watch. Zain Sheikh was a delight  with his impish, cheeky and confident Puck.
I am going to get shouted at now. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the performances of our romantic leading men I felt them to be a bit lacking in presence. Having watched Cliff Single perform in other shows I know that he is more than capable of delivering a full hearted, vigorous performance. Somehow the romantic men ( with the exception of Erik Hadden)  fell a bit flat and I cannot understand why. All the ingredients were there. The men needed to own the stage a bit more. They needed to square up and stride a bit  - this is after all Shakespeare. Ben Franklin gave us a taste of physical energy when Demetrius was tussling with Lysander.  I think what could have helped may have been  a bit more of  Shakespearean use of addressing the audience. This was done occasionally and well. I think that Midsummer Nights Dream in particular lends itself to this and it would have been useful to take advantage of the tool a bit more.
Overall the casting and acting was good which meant that we ,the audience, had the opportunity to relax and enjoy the show. This combined with  the great costumes and the best material  ( it is Shakespeare and he is the master after all) made our Saturday night entertainment just grand.

 The Beautiful (?) Thisbe

A great big warm congratulations to the Dubai Drama Group for a really lovely evening of good theatre. I enjoyed everything from the introduction as the audience walked into the auditorium to the curtain call. I love a  curtain call. It just ends the entertainment properly in a just so manner.

There are shows this weekend. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Last chances to see the show and it is worth it. You will enjoy yourselves.


Dubai Drama Group


Ticketing Information from Ductac:

presented by Dubai Drama Group, in association with Emirates NBD
June 14-15 and 21-22
Evenings 8.00pm, Saturday Matinees 4.30pm
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
Venue: Kilachand Studio Theatre
DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates
Tickets: AED 80
Free seating
Tickets now available at DUCTAC's box office and

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