Theatre at UBC

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare

Director Stephen Heatley Sets and Lighting Lauchlin Johnston Costumes Jennifer Darbellay
Original Song and Sound Patrick Pennefather

Dates 19 – 29 September 2007@ 20.00 Venue Frederic Wood Theatre, University of British Columbia

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Stephen Heatley has presented his student cast with a novel concept of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. His bare stage is remarkably lit by the artistry of Lauchlin Johnston, which, with Patrick Pennefather’s music and sound provides a little magic to this otherwise prosaic production.

It is difficult to see the rhyme or reason behind the trans-gender casting, except to assume that the director has a preponderance of female actors for several traditionally male roles. Some of this casting is interesting and well presented. Aslam Husain is particularly successful as Hermia, but the double roles of Hypolytta/Titania and Theseus/Oberon, where the actors are required to change gender in their transformation from mortal to fairy, are doubly difficult for a young cast, and, consequently, are all too human throughout.

Kim Harvey gives a nicely contrasted performance as Nick Bottom, the weaver, underplaying the part in the boisterous sections and giving the “eye of man” speech a wonderful, dreamlike quality. Maura Halloran’s Helena is convincing and well done, but Lysander and Demetrius (Kate Hilderman, and Shaun Aquiline) are not as comfortable in their characters. The other cross-gendered and multi character roles are well performed, and I have no complaint about these castings.

Heatley has cut the script judiciously. He has made certain that his actors speak well, deliver their lines intelligently, and that the company plays together. His interesting opening scene and his entertaining use of the golf cart for the Mechanicals transport and theatre are part of his" theatre for today," together with, one must assume, his use of cross-dressing. But as an old-fashioned being, I did long for a bit more humour and a bit more fairy tale magic.

© 2007 Jane Penistan