Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – full of joy and mirth (Open Arts at The MAC until Saturday 27 April)

After years of not seeing a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, suddenly three come along in a matter of weeks! Open Arts’ adaptation is running at The MAC this weekend and delivers a joyous and sensual celebration of theatre, combining the talents of their the Monday Players, dancers from Luminous Soul, musicians from Gamelan Orchestra and singers from Open Arts Community Choir.

Shakespeare sets up an Athenian square of love where no one loves Helena who loves Demetrious loves Hermia who loves Lysander. There’s a father who must be obeyed, an elopement, a rather wonderful play within the play, a fairy king and queen, and some great death scenes.

There’s a lot going on, but colour-coordinated costumes clearly differentiate the different strands of plot. Tuned percussion instruments and a few strings and woodwind provide a bed of eastern-sounding music under many of the scenes.

Gerry McBride’s Puck scoots across the stage with a hair-raising sense of urgency. His master, king Oberon is played solidly by Gareth Smyth, while queen Titania (Michelle Porter) flits around the woods with a troupe of fairy dancers who strike up some superb tableaus draped across the leafy set, and work some beautiful wheelchair choreography into their routines.

Cinzia Savonitti (Hermia), Andy Paton (Demetrius), Rab Nolan (Lysander) and Linda Fearon (Helena) really convey the emotion of their storyline – with some nifty crutch-fighting – while the ‘Mechanicals’ inject lots of humour with their play. Anna Kyle (It Only Takes a Minute) makes a great Bottom, alongside some brilliant moments from Monica Hughes (Quince), Carley Palmer, Darren Murphy, David Parkes and Tim Leathem.

Open Arts attitude towards inclusion and opening up the arts to everyone is obvious throughout the performance which, to quote Shakespeare, is “full of joy and mirth”, conjuring up the sleepy, dreamlike situation, stirring up fresh ironies (Oberon’s invisibility contrasted with the actor’s own sight problems), and adapting the script and action to take advantage of mobility aids and build them into the production rather than just try and work around them.

At the end of a long week in which humanity sometimes seemed stretched and broken, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a real tonic. A very polished production which worked as an ensemble to blend together diverse abilities: a credit to everyone involved on stage or back stage. You’ve one more chance to catch this great show tonight, Saturday 27 April at The MAC.

Photo credit: Neil Harrison

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