A Midsummer Night’s Dream is up there as one of Shakespeare’s most oft performed plays. There have been countless as adaptations and reinterpretations over the years, but I’d imagine there are few as wonderfully strange and eclectic as Russian director Dmitry Krymov’s interpretation A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It). As clichéd as it sounds, this is Shakespeare as you have in all likelihood never seen it before.
Originally commissioned as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s World Shakespeare Festival back in 2012 to coincide with the London Olympics, the production strips away much of the plays original text and focuses instead solely on the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe. Who just happen to be 15ft+ puppets. With the subtitles (Did I mention the whole thing’s in Russian?) reminding us that these two gigantic characters are the world’s first great lovers, precursors even to Romeo and Juliet.
One of the things I liked about the production was its, very Shakespearean, ability to mix comedy with profundity, to find that balance between both high and low art. Though arguably comedy comes out ahead, with an abundance of visual gags (inflatable puppet penis) and moments of python-esque humour – with the opening subtitles in particular reminding me of the Holy Grail’s opening titles.
The production also engages well with the Shakespearean idea of the play with a play; something, which incidentally also takes place in the original text of Midsummers. Here well-dressed and posh “audience” members follow the action from seats at the side of the stage and the boxes – occasionally interrupting the action.
It was also a wonderfully immersive experience, with the production spilling from the stage, as the cast haul a giant tree trunk and fountain (with water) through the stalls from the side doors, through to the back of the stage, never to be seen again. Whilst the whole episodes meaning is still a little lost on me, it was memorable and as an audience member, it makes you sit up and take notice.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) is a quirky and thoroughly entertaining piece of theatre. It’s a spectacle, dealing with simple age old themes in new and exciting ways. This is a production that will make you laugh, that will make you think and most of all will entertain.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) runs at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth until Wednesday 19th February as part of the 2014 Perth International Arts Festival.
by Simon Clark, On the Arts, 18.02.2014