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

 


  • Viola

    Nice to read a theatre review by someone who actually appreciates the craft and knows what they are talking about! Makes a change. Have not seen the piece in question, though now macabre fascination is tempting me to do so! 

    The main problem with Shakespeare is that some directors get so caught up in “making it hip and relevant”, they forget to make it understandable! Which certainly is their main task. Most audience members are not familiar enough with verse to understand it. Many are school kids for whom it is as foreign as another language. So unless there is a strong directorial hand, cutting the piece, so it makes sense and making sure the actors know exactly what they are saying, it is pointless. Sadly the vain directorial hand tries to re-invent the wheel for artistic kudos.

    You can put all the bells and whistles on it you like, set it on post-apocolyptic Mars, whatever, if the audience don’t understand what the actors are saying they will fall asleep or never see a Shakespeare again.

    Another bad thing is when they alter script and motives of the characters and portray them totally differently to what the script dictates. Once saw an R&J where they had Romeo wanking and a Hamlet where Gertrude commits suicide! Happens often and is a sure way to confuse the school pupils they are meant to be educating. So much for revering the Bard and sticking to the text!

    • Ismail Mahomed

      The  Abrahamse-Meyer company may not produce Shakespeare in its old, staid and conventional sense but their professionalism has achieved a great deal to ensure that audiences come back to the theatre. Their recent productions, Richard III, Shakespeare’s R & J and A Midsummer Night’s Dream played at the National Arts Festival and received significant accolades from well established theatre reviewers. That aside, all three productions also played to audiences at the National Schools Festival. The high schools attending the production gave all three productions rousing standing ovations. I am sure those ovations were not simply because the play had ended but rather, it was because the enthusiastic audience were enthralled by Abrahamse-Meyer’s outstanding production. The Company was the first Company from the African continent to be invited to perform at the 8th Shakespeare International Theatre Festival alongside the Berliner Ensemble, the Globe Theatre and other leading international Shakespeare-producing theatre companies. Surely, all the artistic directors who have recognised the merits of their work can’t be so hopelessly wrong!!!
      Ismail Mahomed

  • Elize

    I went to watch MSND last night. REALLY enjoyed it, and so did everyone else that sat around me….old and young.  I disagree with the above article.

    I agree with Ismail’s comment and all the other comments on the following websites: 
    http://www.whatsonincapetown.com/post/theatre-a-midsummer-nights-dream/http://www.yoursoapbox.co.za/show/midsummer-nights-dream-2/Don't worry Viola, The play was very easy to follow and understandable and they stuck to the text. 

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt

  • Dorothyingeneral

    sometimes i think reviewers review for critical back patting. i just stumbled on this review while looking for accommodation over the festival and i just have to say i LOVED this version of msnd. it was spectacularly funny. in fact, i haven’t laughed that hard in a shakespeare show ever. every audience member i know thought it was brilliant. but maybe that’s because we’re just the silly audience not burdened by the weight of critical nitpicking that so encumbers and saps the joy of spectatorship that critics must endure. 

  • K

    This review is completely unjustified! I loved this version of Midsummers. Having been to a couple of versions of the play at Maynardville over the years, this humorous, playful take was refreshing, and most importantly made Shakespeare young and relatable.