A Midsummer Night's Dream at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts
Reviewed: November 21
Globe Theatre's lively production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is frequently hilarious, doing justice to Shakespeare's comic genius if less so to the fantasy elements of this many-layered play. Shakespeare's Globe in London is a reconstruction of the 1599 Globe Theatre where Shakespeare himself appeared as an actor. Founder Sam Wanamaker's vision was to present the Bard's works the way they were first performed - in daylight (here replicated by leaving the houselights on) and using only the kind of costumes and scenery available 400 years ago.
This production illustrates the strength of this approach as well as its limitations.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is made up of three stories: four young lovers are paired off after a series of mishaps; a bumbling group of artisans set out to stage a play with dire results; Oberon, King of the Fairies and his wife Titania are reconciled after a bitter feud.
Dominic Dromgoole's production scores strongly with the romantic comedy and robust farce of the mortal characters. The lovers are funny and the relationship between Duke Theseus and his bride Hippolyta is intelligently portrayed. Throwing in some Cantonese was a nice a touch.
The fairy sections, on the other hand, fail to convey any sense of the supernatural or the darker sexual elements inherent in the play. The Globe's restrictions on lighting and other theatrical effects are a drawback here.
The company gives a fine ensemble performance. Janie Dee (pictured) differentiates well between her dual roles of Hippolyta and Titania - the moment where she transforms Shakespeare's dialogue into jazz while seducing Bottom is stunning. Aden Gillett is an excellent Theseus, although his Oberon is too human; Beatriz Romilly is an outstanding Helena and Steffan Donnelly's Thisbe brings the house down.