A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays and a frequent presence on the stage. Only last year local group Centrepiece Theatre ran a well-received production at The Q. Now Bell Shakespeare is about the venture out into the thick forest of Midsummer Night’s Dream interpretations with their own take on the play. Described by Bell Shakespeare as “a breathless 90-minute production”, it seems even the play’s title had to be cut for time: it is now known simply as “The Dream”.
Director Peter Evans is on an equally brisk schedule with the run-up to the play’s opening this Saturday, but we were able to convince him to stop for a quick breath and answer some questions for our readers.
The play has been trimmed to a brisk ninety minutes. How did you decide what to shed and what to keep?
Peter: It’s a careful process of trimming. Essentially the storyline and essence of the play are untouched, nothing substantial is taken out, major characters and the main plot are still very much intact.
This is a play where two different worlds collide – human and fairyland. How do you keep these worlds distinctive? Or are they in fact more similar than we would like to admit?
Peter: It is, however the fairy story and fairies themselves have distinct human attributes, just on a larger scale. It’s as if Shakespeare wanted to magnified those traits of recklessness, jealously and mischief.
This production promises to play with theatricality by having actors take on multiple roles. There’s even a play within a play. Bell’s Henry V also recently played with these ideas. What is it about this approach to Shakespeare that interests you? In the end are all players not too different from the rude mechanicals?
Peter: Shakespeare invites us to explore the act of making theatre. The metaphor of acting and putting on a play is through a lot of his plays. This idea that we are acting or performing in our own lives is a constant theme in Shakespeare’s works.
The play within a play is even more explicit in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and we’re taking full advantage of that in this production with multiple actors playing multiple roles. A part of the process has been to explore different facets of ourselves, which has really shaped each of the characters.
A large part of this play is love making people act like idiots. Any personal experience of the silliness of love you’d be comfortable sharing with our readers?
Peter: Yes it is. Love can make anyone do silly things, but that’s half the fun. We’ve certainly had a great time exploring this in the rehearsal space.
Although my puckish attempt to extort a tale of personal romantic misadventure failed there are clearly no hard feelings because Bell Shakespeare has generously offered two tickets for RiotACT readers on Friday 29th August. But in keeping with the spirit of fairyland, only those who solve a riddle may lay claim to them. (Incidentally, the contest is forbidden to bogarts, wisps, pucks, dryads and all sundry residents of Titania’s court.)
For your chance to win the double pass, answer the following question in the comments below:
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, what is the name of the King of the Faeries?
What: Bell Shakespeare’s The Dream
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: August 28th – September 13th
Tickets: available here