An elderly man peppering his speech with words such as ‘cool’, ‘ridic’ or ‘obvs’ in order to give the impression he is conversant with the culture of a teenage generation is the image Maynardville’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream conjures up.
It is hideous.
Lasers to depict Titania’s fairies may seem like a good idea on paper but being subjected to the scattering of green beams while sober made me realise the reason people indulged in large quantities of A, E and other serotonin stimulating vowels at ‘90s rave parties was not to enjoy the laser shows, but to be able to endure them.
Added to this atrocious decision was having the little beams of light ‘talk’ in tinny chipmunk voices, with a faux-African accent layered on to simply rub salt in a wound that began to weep halfway through the second scene.
In fact the African theme of this A Midsummer Night’s Dream which had the mechanicals dressed up like waiters at a third-rate safari-themed tourist trap on the edge of Roodepoort was such a staggeringly awful decision it would make Leon Schuster proud.
Referring to Peter Quince with a Xhosa click on the ‘q’ might have been mildly amusing. Once. In rehearsal.
Thank small mercies the set was as raw and simple as a piece of granite. God forbid it was subject to the same misplaced creativity expended on the costume design which made Oberon and Puck’s shaggy purple, grey and puce pants and tattoo tops serious contenders for the vilest garments an actor has ever had the misfortune to have to wear in public.
What James McGregor, playing a creditable Lysander, was forced to wear wasn’t much better. It was no surprise he tore his indigenous skirt off at the first excuse.
Terrible though the directorial and design choices may have been, the acting wasn’t much better.
Shakespeare’s poetry was, as is so often the case, mangled by actors who have not made the effort to understand what is being said and why. Kim Cloete’s Titania was particularly guilty of this, reciting her lines as if they were a foreign language she’d been ordered to memorise, and Theseus, played by Marcel Meyer, had the awe-inspiring ability to make a plank look charismatic by comparison.
Nicholas Campbell’s Demetrius was forgettable, which is probably the best thing any self-respecting actor in this play could wish for.
Zondwa Njokwani was too pretty and undressed for this reviewer – who had little enough else to relieve the tedious horror of the play – to provide any sort of objective opinion on her actual acting ability, and Hannah Borthwick may have been superb but it was impossible to see through the thick Afrikaans accent she was presumably told to project to complete the South African theme.
Terence Bridgett as Nick Bottom/Pyramus was praised by all as the star of the show. It’s true. His ability to outcamp this collection of bad ideas was the only reason you might consider suffering through the rest of this production.
Of course, I do wonder whether he shines so brightly because he’s good, or because he managed to be so bad as to transform ineptitude into a remarkable artistic achievement.
Oh! The asse’s ears were rather well made.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Maynardville until March 16. It is directed by Fred Abrahamse. – Steve Kretzmann