Seen: September 5, Festival Theatre
Cast: Bethany Jillard, Liisa Repo-Martell, Tara Rosling, Mike Shara, Scott Wentworth, Maev Beaty, Michael Blake, Michael Spencer-Davis, Derek Moran, Stephen Ouimette, Karl Ang, Lally Cadeau, Keith Dinicol, Victor Ertmanis, Brad Hodder, Evan Buliung, Jonathan Goad, Chick Reid, Charlie Rose Neis, Hazel Martell-Abraham, Graci Leahy, Isabella Castillo, Brooklyn Rickert, Josh Buchwald, Savita Brickman-Maxwell, Gabriel Long, Josue Laboucane, Thomas Olajide, Thomas Ryder Payne
Directed by Chris Abraham
One of the countless things I love so much about the Stratford Festival is that you never know what you are getting and was that true for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Upon entering the auditorium, you are part of a garden party wedding, with decorations at the end of every second aisle and actors mingling with the patrons coming in until the play starts. That’s about as far as I will go concerning production spoilers (except for some info that was revealed in the Q&A after the performance) because I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone who is still going to see this play.
The best way to describe this production is probably that you have to see it to believe it – which also fits Evan Buliung’s Titania. Buliung and Jonathan Goad are alternating the roles of Titania and Oberon. September 5, Buliung was the swishy-dressed Titania, while Goad seemed to have a lot of fun playing a deliciously diabolical Oberon. As much as Stephen Ouimette dialled down his melancholy fool in King Lear, he cranked it up to 11 as Daddio of the Patio – better known as Bottom – in this one. He really got to show off his comedic chops, as did Mike Shara as Demetrius, Liisa Repo-Martell as Helena, Bethany Jillard as Hermia, Tara Rosling as Lysander and Chick Reid as Puck.
In case you are planning to see this play with a theatre-reluctant Star Wars fan, there is something in there for those too. I mentioned in my review of Man of La Mancha that I never laughed so much in a theatre as few years back at Pirates of Penzance at the Avon. That was nothing compared to last night. My abs and face hurt from laughing so hard for such a long time. There is a healthy dose of irony and sarcasm in the play and all the chaos is performed so perfectly, time flies by and suddenly it’s over.
The shortest way to sum up this production is ‚utterly brilliant‘.
Before I go on to the spoilerish As from the Q&A, one note for those who might be interested: there will be an ASL performance on September 20.
Bethany Jillard and Evan Buliung kindly participated in a Q&A after Friday’s performance. One of the first questions was if this production was going to be filmed. Disappointingly, it is not which is a crying shame. And don’t try to tell me it’s because of the music rights, I know there’s a way to clear this stuff, I used to do it.
One other question that tied in with something we actually experienced during the show was if there had been backlash for the production being rather progressive. Sadly, the reply was a clear ‚yes‘. Apparently the fact that there are same-sex couples and a guy in a dress causes patrons to yell out things, leave to come back and shout ‚may God have mercy on your souls‘ then leave again, and entire school classes to walk out. A lady behind us started to shout ‚this is ridiculous‘ at the use of sign language. Lady, if you don’t like it, shut up and air your grievances during interval or after the show, not during. Also please refrain from then being as noisy a possible, this kind of behaviour is unacceptable once you’re older than 2. The couple in front of us left during interval, every one else around us however seemed to have the time of their lives.
I was flabbergasted that school classes were walking out. Maybe teachers unable or unwilling to have serious discussions with their students after a visit to the theatre should think about what kind of values they are supposedly teaching. I’m 38 now and sometimes I really think we are going backwards.
On an entirely different note; I had no idea there were not enough signs in ASL to actually sign Shakespeare properly. The actors had to develop and improvise some things with their interpreters, who are currently working on an encyclopedia that is supposed to make Shakespeare accessible in the future. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is still on until October 11, click here for tickets: http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=24197&prodid=52393