Over at The Broad Stage, a very unique interpretation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (runs through April 19) started its run this past weekend. A Bristol Old Vic Production in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company (“War Horse”) and directed by Tom Morris undertakes what is most notably one of the most fantastically set plays and brought it down to basics.
Instead of a otherworldly forest, the Athenian woods comes to life with actual planks in the setting of a wood shop world. Shakespeare’s comedic tale of couplings in the game of love takes form using the ensemble as part of the mechanics of the setting. The supernatural world of fairies is done with ingenious feats of imagination and tools found in a shop.
With the use of various everyday doodads such as a watering can, hand saw, basket and hoe a group of actors form to construct the otherworldly embodiment of Puck–giving him different voices. The actors cast as Hippolyta and Theseus transform into Titania and Oberon in a similar manner of using imposing plaster masks of mythological proportions.
The main thread with the unrequited lovers and runaway lovers is done with live actors, keeping the fantasy aspect tied closely with the puppet-esque mechanics. The cast doubles at all times as the scenery that moves–no one waits for their ques in the wings. It was a wonder to watch the tremendously ambitious chance taken by Morris to always have the actors present as entities change. It resulted in a testament to the power of the ensemble’s communion. The acting itself synced with the movement amplified by the performances. The plots of the lovers and the play within the play included stellar performances by the cast.
Be sure to catch this interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy that makes some very unexpected choices that will astound you and delight you. You’ll likely not have seen a take on Bottom such as the one this production brings to the stage with a very memorable performance by Miltos Yorolemou. And if you find yourself thinking he looks familiar, it is because you will likely remember him as Game of Thrones’ Syrio Forel who trained Arya Stark in “Dancing” (Sword fighting) and uttered the phrase:
There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: “Not Today”
And by the end of the show, you’ll not forget him for an entirely different reason.