English director, Tim Supple was commissioned by the British Council in India to direct a production with theatre performers in India and Sri Lanka.
He trawled India to select his cast of extraordinary skill that reflects both the theatrical and linguistic diversity of the region. The 23 performers come from very different backgrounds. They include contemporary trained actors, travelling acrobats, classical and folk dancers and musicians. The level of individual skills on display is exceptional.
Supple’s grand vision works superbly. All of these skills have been incorporated alongside the text to create a lusty, exuberant and spectacular and uniquely Indian production that is in equal parts, physical, musical and text based. He has also managed to infuse the whole work with a distinctly Indian sense of humour.
The magic, mischief and romance that we might expect from a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives way to an outrageous libidinous and comic physicality here. When the two sets of lovers, Lysander (Chandan Roy Sanyal) and Hermia (Yuki Ellias) and Demetrius (Prasanna Mahagamage) and Helena (Shanaya Rafaat) enter the enchanted world of the forest, Puck’s magic so overwhelms them that they give way to complete physical abandonment.
Meanwhile, the popular mechanicals, rehearsing in the forest, offer a very amusing change of style and pace. The charismatic Joy Fernandes, in particular, gives an adorable comic performance as Bottom.
The multilingual script includes English, Tamil, Malayalam, Sinhalese, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi and Sanskrit. But don’t be put off, for while the subtleties of the text give way to physical grandeur, this broad, sweeping and robust production doesn’t compromise meaning. In fact the plot, intentions and characters are extraordinarily clear.
Theseus and Oberon are both played by P. R. Jijoy and Archana Ramaswamy plays Hippolyta and Titania. The chemistry between these two performers is palpable. P. R. Jijoy is particularly well cast as the regal yet hirsute and wild Oberon, king of the fairies. He is well matched by his romantic partner, the much wiser and stronger willed, Titania.
Sumant Jayakrishnan’s striking set and costume designs contribute to the scale and spectacle of the production. The costumes are a kaleidoscope of purple, hot pink, lime, royal blue, teal, gold, vivid yellow, tangerine, fuchsia, lime and emerald. They are lusciously and quintessentially Indian.
The set is at once simple and glorious: red ochre floor, swathes of wine coloured silk and bamboo scaffolding covered in white paper which, later, rips apart with the entrance of Titania’s stunningly acrobatic spirits.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an ideal play to be adapted in this way. The story within a story as well as the elements of music, magical characters and enchantment easily lend themselves to Tim Supple’s production which is a lavish, celebratory spectacle.
Arts Projects Australia and Sydney Theatre
by arrangement with Roger Chapman, Matthew Byam Shaw and Act Productions
present the Dash Arts Production
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
By William Shakespeare
Venue: Sydney Theatre | 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: Tuesday 11 March - Saturday 22 March 2008
Performances: Evenings Tuesday - Saturday 8pm (No performance Good Friday 21 March); Twilight Monday 17 March 6.30pm
Matinees: Wednesdays 1pm, Saturdays 2pm
Price: $39 – $79
Bookings: (02) 9250 1999 / Ticketek 132 849 / sydneytheatre.org.au