Recreating a work of Shakespeare is always a challenge, especially when you change it to make it your own. The people of the St. Thomas Early English Drama Society took that risk and delivered a unique performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In this rendition of the classic comedy, actors perform on a stripped-down stage at the Ted Daigle Auditorium with no extravagant lighting and very sparse music. It breaths new life into the original story by giving its characters a more modern look and feel than other traditional productions. While most of the original dialogue is intact, the actors frequently drop unexpected 21st century slang at high points of emotion during the performance, a clever acknowledgement of a modern audience.
The play relies heavily on the actors’ abilities to use every inch of the stage. The entire cast executed this to perfection, layering every scene with hilarious background action that had the audience rolling with laughter as those in the spotlight flawlessly delivered the iconic words of Shakespeare. Action also took place in the aisles and seats of the theatre which gave the audience an extended three-dimensional experience.
Johnny Matheson was a stand out in his role as Theseus, demonstrating a powerful stage presence that set the tone of the play. Another noteworthy performance came from Telina Debly, who embraced her role as Puck with incredible enthusiasm, capturing the attention of the audience whenever she stepped on stage. Every cast member had their moment to shine, whether it was through a lead role, soliloquy or an a capella solo.
Georgia McNaughton, creative consultant and costume designer, did a fantastic job of dressing each character to accurately represent their personality. Most noteworthy was the costume of Demetrius, played by Sékou Hendricks, who was appropriately dressed in traditional jock apparel: a varsity jacket and motorcycle helmet, to reflect his character’s arrogance. As well, the use of leather in the costumes of characters such as Lysander, played by Christine Campbell, and Oberon, played by Jordan McAdam, added nicely to their sassy, abrasive natures.
One of the best background actions throughout the play was Lysander casually smoking a vapour cigarette which she would tuck behind her ear whenever she rejoined the primary action.
Director Anthony Bryan and assistant director Alexa McDaniel masterfully developed every plotline equally and wove them together in a way that is both pleasing to Shakespeare purists and easy to digest for those who have never seen nor heard of Shakespeare before.
The play took place at the Ted Daigle Auditorium from Thursday Jan. 12 to Saturday Jan. 14.
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