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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Midsummer Night's Dream: Watching with Oliver...

Last night I took my 10 year old son, Oliver, to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Citadel Theatre. He's almost 11 and is getting more mature and I felt that he was at a good age to expose him to Shakespeare.  I knew that he wasn't going to 'get it all' but hopefully he would 'get' some of it and from what I heard about this production it would be a great first exposure. 

The show was lovely, the actors were quite comfortable in dealing with the language and Tom Wood's production wisely approaches the play in a very physical way.  Everything looks beautiful and there is a bit of real magic evoked with the fairies.  Oliver loved Puck (Jonathan Purvis) for his leaping and tumbling and flying around the space.  He also loved the gorgeous swing that Titania and Bottom sail over the audience on. With the lovers in the woods, Oliver was a little bored by the kissing and arguing, however he was totally invested in the fight scene (which was excellently executed) and he loved the mischievous Puck's replacing and magicking swords as he led Lysander (Eric Morin) and Demetrius (Partick Lundeen) about the woods. Oliver's favorite part, however, was hands-down the Pyramus and Thisbe play within a play performed by the Mechanicals for the royal court.  On the ride home he recounted much of the silliness that ensued, listing Thisbe's butt, Thisbe's screaming, the missing sword and the Moon's dog as his favorite parts.  As a mother it is simply fabulous to sit next to your child hearing them laugh as they are truly engaged with something you love.  I was worried, because a 2 1/2 hour long Shakespearean piece is tough to sit through, and at the end of the first act I don't think he was convinced that this was for him.  However, the second act was full of physical comedy and that's what you need when you are 10.

For me, the stand out performances were Shannon Taylor as Helena (who was fiery and funny and who possesses an amazing physicality) and the Mechanicals as a group.  I thought the show, as a whole, was well-executed and in particular the second act. This production was especially strong with the physical aspects, but engagement dropped a bit whenever the language was not supported by action. Personally I would have cut the dancing at the end and shorted the dancing fairies bit, as the show is long enough without that and although fun and/or pretty, those bits did nothing to move it along.  Overall I enjoyed myself, but I was not blown out of the water.  It is a challenge to sell Shakespeare at Citadel prices when we in Edmonton have Freewill Players doing such high quality productions every summer.  With ticket prices 2-3 times higher at The Citadel I wanted the experience to be that much more incredible. It's hard to reach that when the bar is set so high already.

1 comment:

Annemarie said...

I'm not surprised that he enjoyed it. I can understand a 10-year being able to process Shakespeare.
At 10 they're used to there being alot of things that they don't understand - they're used to processing thoughts and ideas by stringing together what they do comprehend from among much that they don't understand. In some ways it might almost be harder for a person to cope with Shakespeare when exposed to the work first as an adult when you're more used to having a fuller grasp on language and concepts and could get too distracted by the infamiliarity of it to look past to the story.
That's my completely non-professional take on it any way. :)