Despite really loving A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school, I have never been able to see it performed live. Sure, there have been a few movies, but that isn’t the same thing. Luckily, Bard on the Beach decided to include it in their 2014 festival lineup. Showing on the BMO main stage until September 20th, A Midsummer Night’s Dream weaves together three stories involving the basic human desire, to love and be loved, and the misuse of magic; all of which culminates in to the most ridiculous and hilarious of mix-ups.
I often find it difficult to sell Shakespeare. I can only assume people who “don’t like Shakespeare” are still a little traumatized from their high school experience of reading one of his plays rather than being able to watch one of his plays. Had they actually been able to sit in the audience of a Shakespearean play, instead of fumbling awkwardly with the early modern English, they probably would have enjoyed the experience a little more. But since I can’t change one’s high school experience, I have found that inviting someone to one of Shakespeare’s comedies, rather than a drama, is significantly easier.
The current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream entices its audience in myriad of ways. At first glance, the main stage seems a bit plain. Everything is white, apart from what appears to be a wrought iron (upside down) umbrella on the left-hand side. However, the stage’s shape, almost like the inside of a shell, is quite detailed in its construction. And, after seeing the fairies appear for the first time, the white backdrop made sense. The opulent nature of the fairy costumes reminded me of a blend of Moulin Rouge and steampunk. Even the costumes in the natural world had a bit of steampunk flare to them. The costumes, combined with the use of modern music (“Wiggle” by Jason Derulo anyone?), made for quite a visually stunning stage creation.
Of course the obvious highlight to any Bard on the Beach show are the actors. No matter how small their role, the entire cast was magnificent. Of course, attention must be drawn to the characters of Puck (Kyle Rideout) and Nick Bottom (Scott Bellis). Yes, the characters are written well and are already exceptionally hilarious on paper but both Rideout and Bellis take their roles, and I apologise for using a common phrase from those ubiquitous singing competitions, and “make it their own”. Kyle Rideout takes Puck’s already mischievous nature and raises the bar with his obvious charm and charisma to easily seduce the audience. Okay, dancing around in a colourful tutu may have helped. In addition, the character of Nick Bottom is a tad on the egotistical side but Scott Bellis uses that to his advantage. He creates Nick Bottom that is beyond ridiculous in the most humorous way possible.
The best part of the play, whether you are reading it or watching it, is when we finally get to the scene where Bottom and the rest of the tradesmen perform the play they have been rehearsing for the Duke’s nuptials. Again, on paper, this scene is already funny. However, the combination of Dean Paul Gibson’s direction and the very talented cast results in a hysterical, and I mean HYSTERICAL, scene. I actually do not know how the other cast members could keep a straight face during that scene. Oh wait. Some of them legitimately couldn’t.
Bard on the Beach is always a fun night out and this was no exception. The show was obviously amazing but I want to mention festival staff. Everyone is always so helpful and clearly seem to love their job. In particular, the usher in my section was engaging and joked with me and my plus one before the show and during intermission. I really feel that her welcoming demeanour helped my plus one relax and enjoy his first Bard on the Beach experience. A wonderful night out!