Hermia is betrothed to Demetrius, but loves Lysander, Hermia’s friend Helena dotes upon Demetrius, but Demetrius has eyes only for Hermia. Unwilling to marry Demetrius Hermia escapes with Lysander into the forest. Before leaving Hermia reveals her plan to her friend Helena, who in turn reveals it to Demetrius hoping that he will accept the loss of Hermia and turn his affections to her. Instead Demetrius pursues Hermia and Lysander into the woods with Helena, desperate for his love, trailing pathetically behind.
Meanwhile, Oberon (who is the King of the faeries) has devised a plot to cheat his Queen Titania of her Indian page-boy by anointing her eyes with the juice of a magical flower that will enchant her to fall in love with the first creature she sees upon waking. He enlists the services of the mischievous Puck to do the task and also requests that Puck use the magical flower juice to resolve the love triangle between Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius. But Puck is not an entirely reliable sprite and has a reputation for mischief beyond all others… needless to say thing do not go exactly to plan.
Yohangza Theatre Company, however, has not produced a traditional treatment of the play. Bearing from South Korean, they have infused the production with Korean mythology, theatrical techniques and an Eastern sensibility. The plot is tweaked to suit Yohangza’s needs and the play is performed (for the large part) in Korean (sub-titled in English), but stays true to Shakespeare’s eternally resonant themes.
My primary concern upon hearing that Shakespeare was to be performed in Korean (or any language other than English) would be that the poetry and meter of the language would be lost. My Korean is non-existent, I couldn’t speak a word to save my life, so I was unable to judge whether the poetry of Shakespeare was adaptable into Korean, but the meter was definitely lost in translation.
The meter, however, was realised instead through the stylistic movement of the production. Every step, every gesture, every expression was measured and timed perfectly. Subsequently the show was infused with an infectious rhythm that, given Korean theatrical traditions, was a perfect substitution for Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.
Director Jung-Ung Yang (Yohangza company founder) has realised a Korean Midsummer Nights Dream, not by mimicking traditional performances of the text but by making it their own. What would be lost in language (for non-Korean speakers) is established through gesture, stylized movement and make-up. The actors command not only their craft, but the performance space and the audience from the moment they step on stage and into the realm of the memory.
I doubt anyone has ever seen Shakespeare like this; it’s such a relish to see a truly refreshing interpretation of such a well trodden text.
Yohangza Theatre Company
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Venue: Riverside Theatre cnr Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Dates/Times: January 23-27 at 8pm; January 27 at 2pm
Duration: 1hr 30mins, no interval
Tickets: $40 / $30
Bookings: Riverside Theatres 02 8839 3399; Festival Ticketek 1300 888 412 or www.sydneyfestival.org.au