Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream- Review- Theatron

"Can we go home? I'm bored!" Boy sitting in front of Matthew, Age Unknown.
"I enjoy the audience interactions." Daisy, 14.
"I like Mr. Bottom because he's very funny." Amber, 6.
"The rhythms are being thrown off by some of the artistic choices with the slow motion and movement. I'm sure it's a directorial choice, but I don't know what it means and I'm all about the text."- Edward, old as dirt.
"I don't understand it, but the dog was very cute."- Sasa, 20.
Tickets are still available to the Sunday evening performance of Midsummer.

Shakespeare is hard on an artist! I give any actor, designer or director serious props for taking on the beast that is the Bard. Any opportunity we have as a community to show off our chops on what is considered a classic is time well spent and the more audience members we can introduce to the classics, I feel, is the better. Now, let's get down to brass tacks.

Overall, I feel the experience was a solid performance from a group of committed actors. Acting wise the show was better than most with particularly stellar performances by Catherine Fu (Helena),
Michael Harley (Snug), Elizabeth Herbert (Titania) and Adam Harris(Bottom). My personal favorite moment of the show came during Helena's first soliloquy. Her pacing, tone of voice and speaking were so true and honest. I just wish she had taken some time to look at all 3 sides of the audience. My other favorite part of the show was the Mechanical's play in Act 5. This part was staged particularly well with nice levels and for the first time of the night the ability to see everyone's faces! Both Bottom and Flute delivered their soliloquy's well and played to all three sides. (Thank you!!!
Special props to Michael Rogers who was a big hit with the pile of students for his delicate protrayal of Thysbe!

You are probably wondering why I am making such a big deal about the three sides. When I come to a show at the McAulay I make sure to sit on either the house right or house left. This theatre is set up in a thrust style which is my personal favorite style of theatre to both direct and watch. I like how intimate it is. I love a production with great angles and use of the voms and smartly arranged staging in a small space. I think it's a sign of good craftmanship to see a thrust play that is blocked equally to the three sides. This was unfortunately not the case in Theatron's Midsummer, as I was resigned to looking at people's backsides for most of the nights and an even worse offense, seeing peoples backs and having their backs block me from seeing the other person they're talking to. NEVER, EVER stand in a straight line in a thrust. Basic directorial blocking and thrust acting, 101. Stand at a slight angle so all sides can see a little bit of everything, you don't play to just the front of house. This is a problem that really bugs me in staging but is easy to fix. Please actors, stand at an angle. Thank you, the audience. You have a cute ass but I don't want to look at it all night...
An example of a thrust theatre, the entrances are called a vom.
Design wise the lighting was excellent and I feel Burt's lighting was the best design choice of the show. Although, as a note, legally you must put a warning sign in your lobby for strobe lights (with the direction the light is pointing), as it effects people with epilepsy. (Like, yours truly.) Andy Burt made beautiful choices in his lighting and I feel this is probably one of his best shows he has done that I've seen. Set wise, the scenery was apparently inspired by the front cover of Peter Brook's An Empty Space. Mike Harley was lucky enough to see the VERY famous circus production of Midsummer by Brooks and was inspired to have a "theatrical simplicity" with the setting.

I wish that Harley and his co-director Adam Harris would have kept to the "theatrical simplicity" in the costume department. None of the costume choices were particurily clear, apparently there was a homage to the 60's in the fairy king and queen but it didn't carry over to Puck or Fairy 1. (Why not?) I was privy to the story of how there were two directors on this project. One who started it and made a lot of the decisions in the beginning and then the second director who came in at the end and made some other choices. Design wise, it seemed like two different shows. (Which makes sense because there were two directors.) The only character who seemed to be consistently well costumed was Theseus, played by Jeremy Payne. I adored everything he wore, I thought all his costumes made sense, helped his character and that he was simple yet elegant, perfect for Theseus.

As an artist you have to have a solid concept when it comes to the Bard. Without it, you get stuck in a limbo that is hard for your audience to see through and although well acted, the colliding design choices made it really hard for me to understand the piece from a directorial perspective. Where and When are they? And Why does your choice matter? What is the purpose of the dance number between 3 and 4, why are the lovers already together in it when Puck and Oberon haven't fixed it yet? The dance number was well done and a good concept but confused us as an audience and would have been better suited as a preshow piece, to set the stage, or a post show finale with the curtain call.

As it is with some previous Adam shows, I always find the sound is too loud for my liking. Perhaps our director has a hearing problem. I always want to hear dialogue OVER sound choices and not the other way around. I could not hear the first 3 lines of Puck's last soliloquy and seeing as that is the most famous lines in the whole play, it made me sad that I couldn't hear them over the music playing. An easy fix, please Band don't put the amp on 11! Thanks, the audience.

I enjoyed my night with the cast and crew of Midsummer, it is a show that took a lot of hard work and the attention to detail in the text department and their text work really showed. I thought the speaking of all the actors was well done. The prat comedy of the Mechanicals was delightful, the lovers quarrels and romances were believable and fully committed. Congratulations on all your hard work, I know it will get better and better each night you perform and I'm excited to hear about all the exciting backstage antics. The great thing about HK theatre is you know they are all doing it because they love it and care about the project, not because they are getting paid. I really appreciate all the hard work you guys have put into the show. Shakespeare is not easy and you are all tough cookies to take it on!

Personal side note, actors please wear appropriate underwear in your costumes. No one wants to see exposed boxers, unsupported boobies or nipples popping through your shirts (due to the freezing McAulay). There are children in the audience! And if you're going to show your undies, do it on purpose and make 'em crazy colored!

 Grade: B-
(But I'm sure it'll be rocking an A performance by closing night, just get your angles down and it'll be much improved!)


  1. I agree with you Meaghan, the lack of coordination in the costumes was, unfortunately, obvious, which is a pity, as so many things could have been done style wise.

  2. clothing helps a lot with telling us where we are in the setting without a clear vision, it can hinder an audience's connection to a piece.