Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) A Midsummer Night's Dream - A Puppet Epic (Fringe)

What the Heck is Happening Here?
by Colette Shaw

Shakey-Shake and his friends (all puppets) are getting together to celebrate his marriage to Anne Hathaway (who is simultaneously Shakespeare’s wife and the Academy Award winning actress). As a gift to the happy couple, their friends have decided to put on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The puppets are all (as far as I could tell) single rod puppets, manipulated by actors who are visible as well. I was really impressed with the acting: it was all strong, but Scott Farley as the wolf Paris playing Demetrius was probably my favourite. The child favourite seemed to be Michael Man as Len playing Lysander.

The play-within-the-play is a slightly simplified version of Shakespeare’s, using some of his verse and some modern language re-telling, peppered throughout with contemporary cultural references. I particularly enjoyed the framing of Demetrius’s interest in Hermia being “for business” (as he always says); it makes the ending of his story less unsettling than I normally find it in performance. 
It seems like a great way to introduce Shakespeare to kids: the basic plot and some of the memorable lines are all there, but confusing things are explained in clear modern English. However, I’m not sure if the younger kids are able to keep track of the multiple levels of acting: there was the actor working with the puppet (easy), and then the puppet playing a character (a little bit harder). When they entered again as the fairies, it was a bit too much for some kids: one next to me actually yelled, “What the heck is happening here?” That said, they loved the pop culture references, so it isn’t so difficult that it loses their attention completely. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream - a Puppet Epic is at the Toronto Fringe

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