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Bard on the Beach 

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Director Dean Paul Gibson  Costume Mara Gottler Stage and Scenery Kevin McAllister Lighting Gerald King Sound and Musical arrangement Alessandro Julian & Meg Roe Fight director Nicholas Harrison Stage Manager Stephen Courtenay

Dates 8 June - 24 September  2006   Venue Under the tents in Vanier Park Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Photo by David Cooper

Bard on the Beach opened with a huge flash of lightning, courtesy lighting designer Gerald King, and an unrelenting downpour of rain, courtesy of Thor. An everchanging sky provided a backdrop of deep greys and violets. Can mere mortals compete? Most certainly.

From the opening visual -- a crowd of black umbrellas filling the stage -- this Dream presents a vivid otherworld inhabited by beings never seen before. Witness Puck (Kyle Rideout), suitably goatish with spiky white hair and beard, with stripy tights straight out of a child's picture book, and the barest suggestion of a tutu. Or Titania's fairies who are now doo-wop, now Nutcracker Ballet impressionists.      

The acting can be as outrageous as the costumes. Luisa Jojic is a priceless, stage-struck Philostrate, Mike Wasko a gigantic yet graceful Cobweb. Paul Moniz de Sa as Starveling speaks volumes with the lift of an eyebrow.  

But fear not. Despite the promise of the costumes, this is not a kinky production. The two pairs of young lovers indulge in farcical mayhem in the woods but Tara Jean Wilkin (Hermia) and Melissa Poll (Helena) both have some very nice, quieter moments.

The mechanicals, as a group, are also more subdued. Scott Bellis as a self-important Bottom  had the audience laughing heartily. Russell Roberts presents a maniacal Snout and Haig Sutherland (Flute) as Thisbe one of the few moments of real engagement.

The music, mirroring Shakespeare's own contemporary references in the text, is a grab bag of bits and pieces, well-received by the audience, from Tchaikovsky and Mendelsohn through The Platters, the Aces, and Tom Jones to Stairway to Heaven.

Indeed this is a very contemporary interpretation. The fairy characters are as detached and unchanging as beings in a fantasy film. The human lovers, like young lovers today, are self-confident, unperplexed by sex and sure in their relations. Unfortunatefly though their best expressed emotion is anger.  

Beneath the laughs, behind the visual surprises, this production is on shaky ground. Neither character development, true emotion  nor poetry are allowed to shine through. Indeed, the expression of deepest feeling is given to a puppet. Technically there are some awkwardnesses. Sightlines are sometimes unnecessarily obscured, even for those sitting front and centre.

There can be many interpretations of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This one is bizarre, contemporary, slap-stick-hot ice and wondrous strange snow.

© 2006 Elizabeth Paterson