Volume 93, Issue 5

Friday, June 11, 1999


Canadians inspired By Divine Right

I Love You Perfect, need not change for anyone

Hopkins goes bananas in latest movie

Sparklehorse shines through trauma

Kerouac biography unearths subterranean beat writer

A magical Midsummer Night brought to life at Stratford

A magical Midsummer Night brought to life at Stratford

By Sara Martel
Gazette Staff

You can find the bard in video stores and movie theatres alike. But there is a place where Shakespeare has not yet been molested by Hollywood's grimy hands – The Stratford Festival.

As one of the first shows this season, director Richard Monette has brought together the makings for a brilliant production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. For every bit of Hollywood fare it lacks, this production makes up tenfold with its performances and atmosphere.

One of the production's most substantial successes is the creative way in which it brings together two different worlds. The play opens in Greece with Egeus begging the Duke of Athens to do something about his daughter Hermia's love for Lysander and disinterest in Demetrius, the suitor Egeus prefers for his daughter.

Risking death to be together, Hermia and Lysander decide to secretly meet in the forest night. Hermia's childhood friend, Helena, who is enamored with Demetrius, tells Demetrius of their plan with hopes to meet him in the forest and take him for herself.

This setting is one of laws, authority and institutionalized love, so it's fitting that when the characters are in this world they wear plain, beige or yellow costumes. The sets are also simple, relying on a layered stage for definition. The overall austerity of these scenes reflect the limitations of the mortal world, which are not fully obvious until the action is displaced into the whimsical woods.

Once they reach the forest, the fates of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena are left in the playful hands of the fairies. Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, as well as Oberon's sidekick Puck, dabble in magic and leave true love askew.

In this mystical realm, the lighting turns to a foggy blue, illuminating a layer of smoke often covering the stage floor. A blanket of roses shower the stage balcony while a moon and stars speckle the ceiling. Throughout the set, spritely characters dance in shimmering costumes and throw flower petals in the air. With seemingly simple techniques, the artistic directors cleverly marry the forest and urbanity, mortal and fairy, the erotic and the practical.

When audiences are not marvelling at the creative sets and costumes, they are left to enjoy some inspiring acting. Tony Award winner Brian Bedford gives a hilarious portrayal of Nick Bottom, one of the simple city men who presents a play to the couples in Athens. Bedford's extensive stage study and experience shine in his performance of the grandiose but inept Bottom.

This production of A Midsummer Night's Dream gathers its impetus from a seamless weaving of all the realms and ideas born from the play. In a work based on contrast, this feat could have easily fallen victim to clumsy direction or design. Instead, audiences are rewarded with a romantic yet often comedic look at the course of true love which, in the words of Shakespeare himself, never did run smooth.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999