A Midsummer Nights Dream? at the P.A.C.
October 24, 2013
Loose Cannon return with a numbing production of A Midsummer Nights Dream, which runs at The Project Arts Centre until June 18th. Punctuated with a question mark it set out to excavate the dark underbelly of Shakespeare’s play, to find out whether it was a dream, a nightmare or the twisted results of a night of excess. But aside from not settling on an answer, director Jason Byrne doesn’t seem to ask any real questions either in yet another production to strap itself to the ‘aren’t we funny’ bone and hope that that is enough.
It relies on a cast of five playing multiple characters to bring to life the interlocking story lines. Taking a meta theatrical approach with the staging, the actors consciously and deliberately step in and out of character before our eyes. At one point the lighting illuminated the back stage area.
Staged in a brilliant white box that tips it’s hat to Peter Brooks famed 1970 production the characters move about, seemingly without direction, in modern dress (designer band tees, jeans, leggings and pound store fairy wings). At first they seem to be satirising more traditional stagings of the piece, using film and voice over in a playful yet practical manor to substitute for the missing players. Yet they never really use this idea to its full potential and it is abandoned in favor of a post modern shtick that included seemingly unstructured movement (Ella Clarke), self aware performances and indulgent mimicry of the vocal styling’s of Christopher Walken and Marlon Brando.
The director’s preference for a naturalistic performance style is uncomfortably applied here, often rendering the text inaudible and monotonous, with whole speeches disappearing under the actor’s breathy, insular delivery and distracting misplaced emphasis. It’s all well and good to try and put your own spin on Shakespeare but if the audience can’t make out what you are saying, and there is nothing in your physicality to compensate or consolidate the meaning, it defeats the purpose.
Catriona Ni Mhurucu and Louise Lewis, as Helena and Hermia, bring moments of heart, horror and humor to the stage while the play within a play is laugh out loud funny (largely thanks to these same two actors) but, as a whole, the piece is too caught up with the manor in which the actors portray their parts than in wringing new meaning from the text or staging it in any kind of innovative manor.