(written September 2, 2007)
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most delightful plays in the English language. It is a light-hearted affair, glittering with fairies, lush forests and love coming from every angle. It is impossible to see this play without feeling a warm glow throughout your body, and a smile form on your face.
Unfortunately, someone decided that it would be a good idea to import Englishman Edward Dick to direct. This is a man who, if I had my way, would never be allowed to work with Shakespeare again. He was the director of an Othello that graced our shores just a couple of years ago, and since then it has stood out in my mind as a particularly fecund dung-heap of a production But sadly, the nostril-burning odiousness of that production was nothing compared to the pure rankness of his Dream.
If this production was a human being, those Right-to-Die-Communist-bleeding-hearts would be campaigning around the clock to end its interminable suffering with a quiet, dignified death. This is not the fault of the actors. Goodness knows this is not a production devoid of talent in that department.
No, this production was doomed from the moment Dick-face decided to go for “dark”, “atmospheric” and “insufferable” as the cornerstones of his vision. One simply cannot bring oneself to actually critique this tripe in complete sentences, so one is forced to resort to a summary in bullet-point form.
• Edward Dick-nose was the director.
• Dick-let saw fit to ignore the obvious joy and beauty in Shakespeare’s original text, and instead chose to drag the words through mud.
• Mud. The set was covered in it. Quite literally. And there was almost no point to this whatsoever. It was utilised for about two minutes at the very end of the play, but otherwise it was completely ignored.
• The actors kept walking around in circles. Over and over again. Without ever once explaining or trying to justify this ridiculous act.
• The fairies. Dick-Dick-McDick had every actor play a fairy at some point. This is not an inherently flawed concept. Unfortunately someone decided that the fairies should flail around as though suffering from a particularly violent case of Parkinson’s. To see three of Australia’s finest stage actors (Peter Carroll, John Gaden and Pamela Rabe) reduced to dancing around like Peter Garrett damn near broke one’s heart.
• “The course of true love never did run smooth”. This speech is one of the most beautiful in all of Shakespeare, and it’s the one chance that Lysander has to illustrate his love for Hermia. So to have Lysander and Hermia stand on opposite sides of a cavernous stage, and make Lysander bellow one of Shakespeare’s most tender, loving speeches is yet another criminal act perpetrated by Edward Dick.
Admittedly, not everything was terrible. The mechanicals were wonderfully done. Colin Moody was immaculate as Bottom, Peter Carroll loveable as Snug and Allan John delightful as Flute.
The lovers also managed to escape their appalling direction relatively unscathed. Hermia (Hayley McElhinney) and Helena (Amber McMahon) were two of the absolute highpoints, and Demetrius (Martin Blum) and Lysander (Eden Falk) were rather good, considering the limited roles they were playing.
Puck, played by Dan Spielman, is also worthy of a mention. Although this Puck was dark, malevolent and sullen, one is forced to concede that it was a wonderful performance. Spielman’s physicality was rather wonderful, and his was the standout performance of the production. Sadly, however, Spielman couldn’t save this production, and so it meandered towards its end. And while the final mechanicals scene was lovely, it would be almost impossible to ruin it.
Mind you, that’s what I thought about Midsummer Night’s Dream itself. Sadly, Edward Dick-for-brains-so-couldn’t-direct-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag single-handedly managed to prove me hideously, ridiculously wrong.