This year’s Shakespeare production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was certainly one to remember. Set in the context of the fictional festival Dreamfest, the play explored the traditional text of Shakespeare implemented into a modern setting, which, as directors Liam Harris and Sara Markland rightly stated “celebrated differences and experimentation with a sense of freedom that can be found at the core of humanity”. And freedom was clearly a prominent theme throughout this production, with a live student band accompanied by wild and carefree dance by the cast even as the audience were taking their seats, perfectly establishing the atmosphere for the piece before it had officially begun. A strong design team, headed by Annie M, complimented Dreamfest, smoothly changing lighting washes and background music to accommodate whatever the next scene of the enticing festival was. As expected, strong acting was exhibited throughout, from the portrayals of Puck by Paddy C and Luca W to the comedic mechanicals – Katie A, Kyle W, Freddie P, Lexi P, Anna B, and Chris G-U – a team attempting to act out their own play within the context of Dreamfest. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a humorous take on the Shakespearean play, adapted very effectively to represent the festival experience, but more importantly, the teenage experience in general of many students at the college and around the world.
By Felix K, Lower Sixth Drama Scholar
This lively and hilarious adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was perfectly executed. The concept of this performance, designed by Annie M, was to set the play at a modern-day festival, bringing a new life to the text, and imbuing the play with much more relevance. The inclusion of a live band and several ‘drunk’ festival goers obviously contributed greatly to this, as did the featuring of recorded music throughout, with particular highlights Let’s Get It On and It’s Oh So Quiet both contributing to the festival vibes and heightening the comedy.
Underpinning the performance was the audience interaction, with characters constantly entering and exiting through the audience, and the two Pucks sitting around the auditorium, gesturing and gurning to the audience throughout It’s Oh So Quiet. Additionally, the close relationship of the cast with one another, as well as with the audience, was evident throughout. Demetrius, played by Billy P, and Lysander, played by Ethan W, stripping and posing to compete for Helena’s affection, highlighted the likely sexual implications of the text; and the two Pucks freezing the scene to place Demetrius’ hand on Lysander’s face and Lysander’s hand on Demetrius’ upper thigh showed the directorial team and cast playing around with this now-acknowledged libido-driven atmosphere.
Standout performances were given by Paddy C and Luca W as the two Pucks and Chris G-U as Bottom/Pyramus, all three parts adding copious amounts of comedy to the performance through their exaggerated facial expressions and enthusiastic delivery. The pair of Pucks oscillated between a very childlike nature – becoming meek when Oberon scorned them for their mistakes – and devilish revelry – creating havoc when their master wasn’t around, running around and flirting with one another. The casting of multiple Pucks added to the energy and comedy of the performance, through their synchronicity and contrasting. Bottom drew out further comedy, an explosive and unpredictable character who was extremely effective in his uncontrollable nature, given the mirroring of the uncontrollable events surrounding him at the festival.
The production’s varied costumes really reflected the show’s themes and setting, with many members of the party wearing neon or leopard print (entirely appropriate festival attire), while the fairies wore animal print and bright colours emblematic of their wild nature. More specifically utilising costume to heighten certain scenes, when Hermia and Helena fight, amidst the lovers’ confusion, they both remove their oversized sleep shirts revealing the same outfit underneath, acknowledging the similarities between the two, both desiring affection from the man they love, despite their present feuding.
Overall this performance was an incredible show of young talent and amazing direction, certainly setting the bar high for things to come in Hurst Drama.
By Lillian K, Lower Sixth Drama Scholar