A Dream on Midsummer’s Night
Inspired kid-friendly outing for one of Shakespeare's lighter plays
Beautiful though his prose may be, understanding Shakespeare can be hard enough for adults, let alone children. With its romantic comings and goings, A Midsummer Night’s Dream may be one of the bard’s lighter plays, but there’s no denying the language barrier that exists between the 16th and 21st centuries.
So hats off to Wee Stories for even trying to present this tale to young audiences aged 10+. For despite the opening and closing scenes (and a wee bit in the middle) where they use modern English to set the scene, the rest of the play is entirely true to Shakespeare’s original dialogue (give or take an hour or two).
Inevitably, whole swathes of text will be lost on younger ears (let’s face it, some of it is lost to most of us), but the intention, emotion and basic plot is pretty much crystal clear. Achieved largely due to the smart and witty direction of Iain Johnstone, and the clear, expressive performances of the young cast members.
By focussing on the key players, executing some remarkably quickfire costume changes, and using both puppets and actors to play the same character, they manage to reduce a cast of 22 to just four. Modern dress for the young lovers blends with colourful garbs for the fairies, so there’s little chance of confusion. While the decision to use umbrellas to help the small cast seem more than twice its size, is just inspired.
St Stephen’s Centre, Edinburgh, Thu 20 Sep; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 4—Sat 6 Oct.