Tag Archives: The Acting Gymnasium

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 2 Stars

Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatro Technis

Reviewed – 20th April 2018

★★

“in desperate need of greater cohesion and direction, but is supported by some stand out performances and lovely comic moments.”

 

In the palace of Theseus, Lysander and Demetrius fight for the hand of fair Hermia. Unfortunately Hermia loves Lysander, Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius and Helena, Demetrius’ spurned lover, is still pining for him. Hermia and Lysander run away to be married, followed by a desperate Helena and a determined Demetrius. However, they are all soon lost in a wood which is, unbeknownst to them, filled with mischievous fairies and magical flowers. This is one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies reimagined in a music festival, certainly a setting for a contemporary audience.

There are some fantastic performances. Michael Claff as Oberon is the stand out performance of the night. The text feels natural in his mouth and he elevates the play every time he sets foot on stage. Robert McLanachan is charmingly convincing as Peter Quince. Thomas Witcomb as Bottom brings an infectious pace and energy to the stage and is particularly strong when playing Pyramus. Lisa Lynn as Helena is bold, funny and unapologetic, instantly likeable. Dorian Hasani brings a lovely playful quality to the role of Lysander, reminding us that this is, after all, a comedy. There are also some lovely moments where the whole cast comes together onstage.

However, in general, the actors need to remember to respond to each other. Whilst Theseus’ lines are strongly delivered, he does not respond to or acknowledge the sexualised Hippolyta’s gestures. Puck is eloquent but unexciting, and there is nothing unique about his performance. Titiana improves over the course of the play, but fails to establish her regality and gravitas on her entrance. Like her counterpart Hippolyta, she is a heavily sexualised character, but this makes her seem weak if she is continually moving around the stage, circling and following Oberon like the spaniel Helena begs Demetrius to let her be. There is power in stillness, something the success of Oberon’s performance is clear evidence of. It is particularly vital that Titania achieves this sense of royalty and power early on, in order for her debasement (falling for a man with a donkey’s head) to be truly effective.

Whilst the music festival theme works to some extent, it would have been considerably more effective if it had only been used in the forest, and had been approached with a higher level of commitment. In some scenes it was cleverly referenced and well captured, whilst in other scenes I forgot about it all together. I think the play would be helped by clear differentiation between Theseus’ court in Athens and this magical, fairy-filled forest which is only remembered as a dream. The theme also needs to be investigated more specifically, both aesthetically and in terms of the range of music used by the production which jumped from genre to genre, and made the piece feel thematically incohesive.

As a whole, the piece lacks cohesion and direction. People are often blocking one another, and there seemed to be a tendency to push the action to the edges of the stage, sending the actors’ faces half into darkness at points. Lines were occasionally lost under the music, and many of the comedy moments were sexualised, sometimes effectively, sometimes unnecessarily. It is important to remember that the play is already funny. In trying to find new comedy within the music festival theme, much of the innate comedy of Shakespeare’s writing is lost.

The play ends on a high, with the mechanicals’ play within a play. Snout (Andre Pinto) as the wall is particularly funny, and the slapstick visual comedy is well-timed and a comic highlight of the piece. The actors work well together and it is a fantastic way to finish the play.

Credit must be given to the play’s commitment to making language which is often perceived as impenetrable, seem accessible and relevant, and it is refreshing to see such a large cast comprised of so many different nationalities (twelve to be precise). This is a production that is in desperate need of greater cohesion and direction, but is supported by some stand out performances and lovely comic moments.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatro Technis until 5th May

 

Related
Also from the Acting Gymnasium
 The Misanthrope | ★★ | Theatro Technis | April 2018

 

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Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 4 Stars

Midsummer

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Theatro Technis

Reviewed – 8th September 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“A wonderfully diverse cast, and a mix of accents really make this four hundred year old play feel contemporary”

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest comedy. In this production, The Acting Gymnasium puts a refreshingly new spin on the classic play by setting it in a modern day music festival. As a theme this works extraordinarily well; the use of contemporary music and recreational drugs are particularly clever additions.

Midsummer

A large part of the effectiveness of this piece is due to Gavin McAlinden’s direction. There are a number of particularly impressive directorial choices. From the beginning members of the acting troupe are dispersed throughout the auditorium, this helps bring the audience into the action and seem less like uninvolved spectators. The use of the fairly small performance space at Theatro Technis is also clever, with the four doors around it used almost constantly throughout, creating an illusion of the action taking place in a much larger space.

Meanwhile the actors work as an extremely strong ensemble. The scenes in which the cast are all called upon to create the atmosphere of a music festival are brilliantly performed. As an audience member it suddenly brings us back to the setting of the play, which can be forgotten while concentrating on the meaning of the Shakespearian text. One criticism however, is that iambic pentameter is quite often forgotten about, though this could be a directorial choice to keep in with the modern theme. 

The four lovers’ performance becomes particularly strong during the scenes where chaos descends. Their insults are filled with punch and truly feel as though they understand exactly what they are saying, something that is notoriously difficult to achieve with Shakespeare. For me, Thomas Witcomb’s portrayal of Bottom is particularly strong. His grasp of the humour in the text is fantastic and his performance in the ‘play within the play’ is hilarious.

Midsummer

As for the technical aspects of the show, the set is basic but I don’t really believe this is a performance that needs a detailed set as it relies more on the actors to make the audience believe where they are. I did find the lighting a little unexciting due to the slightly dim general wash that was used for the majority of the performance, even a small difference in the brightness could have added more to this excellent show. It was also quite hard to understand why the house lights remained up for the beginning of the first scene, to me this just led to the audience not being immediately sucked into the action.

Overall this is Shakespeare for the modern day. It’s not magical plants, but drugs causing the confusion. A wonderfully diverse cast, and a mix of accents really make this four hundred year old play feel contemporary. The Acting Gymnasium have created an excellent performance that reflects our society. As they say in their programme, this truly is “Shakespeare for a Camden audience.”

 

Reviewed by Katie Douglas

 

 

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

is in repertoire at Theatro Technis until 16th September

 

 

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