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Friday, 2 April 2021

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a rehearsed reading for the SHAKE Festival

Arriving on the scene in 2019, SHAKE is a Festival born in Suffolk headed by creative director Jenny Hall and promotes workshops, films, talks, music, dance, performance and more on all things Shakespeare. Despite ambitious live programming not possible during the pandemic, the festival has transformed into a digital platform for the meantime which curates online performances. Previous online events include a reading of The Tempest and Sonnets & Carols for Christmas. SHAKE Festival now take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies A Mid Summer Nights Dream, for a live one night only rehearsed reading. Full of magic, love and misunderstandings, the work often lends itself to elaborate imagery, physical comedy and appeals to audiences of all ages. In this rehearsed reading, despite some limitations caused by available technology, the highly talented cast offers an evening of skilful storytelling full of warmth and play.

Set in ancient Greece, the main plot of A Midsummer Nights Dream revolves around four young lovers; Hermia (Máiréad Tyers), Lysander (Barnaby Taylor), Helena (Daniel Bowerbank) and Demetrius (Louis Rudnicki). 

The play begins with Theseus (Dan Stevens), duke of Athens, preparing for his extravagant marriage to Hippolyta (Rebecca Hall), queen of the Amazons, until Egeus, a nobleman, swiftly comes to him with a problem. Egeus wants Hermia, his daughter, to marry Demetrius, who loves her but Hermia is in love with Lysander and refuses. Egeus requests from Theseus that she comply or face the full penalties of the law. Forced to consider her options she is given till the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta to decide what to do. Seeing no other option Hermia and Lysander decide to run away together into the woods. The only person to know their plan is Hermia’s best friend, Helena. However, to make matters more complicated, Helena is in love with Dimitrius and, although loyal to her friend, finds herself compelled to tell Demetrius of Hermia’s betrayal. He subsequently follows Hermia and Helena follows him.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

REVIEW: DREAM, inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream, by the Royal Shakespeare Company

On the 1-year anniversary of Theatres being closed due to Covid, the RSC invites you to explore the virtual world of the forest in which Titania’s fairy train are running wild in a thirty-minute immersive experience. It promises to be magical, interactive and an exciting glimpse into the future of live theatre. However, it is also caveated that it is Research and Development, a digital experiment to see what is possible. There are two ways of engaging with the experience, a free observer or a £10 Audience Plus player who can drop fireflies into the Forest for the live actors to interact with. Although I tried to interact with the action the whole experience felt like watching a fuzzy cartoon film that promised more than it delivered.

To create the virtual world the RSC has worked with a gaming technology platform to create software that translates the movement of live actors in a Portsmouth Guildhall based studio (a 7 metres cube called the Volume) into animated characters in a sketchily drawn forest. In fact, the sequences where we see both the actors in their special suits playing out their movements in the studio as well as the animated video are the most interesting and I would have preferred seeing them throughout. Without seeing them you might just as well be watching a pre-recorded version of the experience. The whole essence of a live experience is feeling and seeing that it is live and without that sense, the experience is dulled and less engaging.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Arundel & Ladbroke Gardens

What a wonderful idea to bring Shakespeare to private squares across London. It’s a dreamlike opportunity to enter these squares we never get to access but try to peek into discreetly when we happen to walk by them (who doesn’t want a private garden, right?). And when the show is A Midsummer Night’s Dream shortly after actual midsummer, you can’t ask for a better occasion to go out. During the show I attended, the sunset provided excellent lighting, shining through the trees and landing elegantly on the actors’ faces. I actually looked up to check whether that wasn’t just light attached to one of the trees above me.

Director Tatty Hennessy places the play during the 1920s in Britain, a country bruised by battle and economic hardship. Theseus and Hippolyta are a British-German couple rigidly following order and law, preventing the young lovers Hermia and Lysander to marry. Meanwhile, a group of actors are chaotically preparing a play to present before the Duke and Duchess. A few miles away, deep in a magical forest, fairies are quarrelling, disturbing nature, and casting spells on each other and the humans who enter the forest.
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