Saturday, 8 August 2015

Dreaming past midsummer

Photo: David Bukach
I have been well "Shakespeared" this summer: two Tempests - one on a warm summer's evening in the park a short walk from our Hades home, and one during an actual tempest in a leaky tent at Ogden Point in Victoria; A Comedy of Errors as envisioned by A Company of Fools channeling Dr Seuss at Strathcona Park in Ottawa; Romeo and Juliet by the light of a not-quite-full moon amid the Garry oaks on the Lansdowne Campus of Camosun College in Victoria. I didn't make it to the Hamlet by "Victoria's Shakespeare by the Sea", so instead of six summer Shakespeare plays, I'm only seeing five.

Last night, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I made our way to Camosun College to see A Midsummer's Night Dream, the other production of the Victoria Shakespeare Festival. It's our seventh summer seeing VSS's plays; they've been doing them for something like 25 years.

There was pre-play entertainment from singer Colleen Eccleston, whom I remember as a young and rather flaky folk-singer doing pre-shows for concerts. She's now rather older and still a bit flaky. She used to sing a rather ghastly ditty which began: "I apPRECiate the sensitive man…" The songs tonight were a mix of her own compositions and standards, not a sensitive guy among them, thank goodness.

The play began with eerie flutes and strumming guitars, and odd drum rhythms.  I recognized the musicians as actors who had speaking roles in the Romeo and Juliet the week before.  I also recognized the fairies, mostly female with at least one uninhibited male, clad in colourful skirts and body stockings with outlandish headdresses, trilling and whooping, as befitted unsettling Shakespearean sprites.  The body stockings were soon concealed under Athenian robes as we launched into the romantic conundrum that begins the play.  Theseus and Hippolyta did a quick change to appear in elaborate costumes as Oberon and Titania quarrelling over the young boy that Oberon wants as a servant.  Soon the "rude mechanicals" began their rehearsal and Bottom - played with perfect comic timing by Paul Henry Oppers - was a hilarious trial to beleaguered Peter Quince - played by Taylor Lewis.  Neither of these gentlemen had appeared in the Romeo and Juliet, and they added a welcome energy to the company. I had enjoyed R&J, mind you, but this play excelled in its ensemble work.  It's always been one of my favourites, anyway, and this turned out to be one of the best VSS productions I've seen

At intermission, I entertained myself by listening in to the debate in the row behind me.  A boy flatly informed his mother that "the part in the beginning never happened; it wasn't in the book."  The "book" to which he was referring ("with Shakepeare's words") had to be a stripped-down version of MND, focussing mainly on Bottom.  Being thirteen or so, this fellow had no patience with his mother when she assured him that this was the authentic play.

Once the lovers were sorted out, Titania and Oberon reconciled, and everyone who needed wedding married off, we were treated to the "rude mechanicals"' mangling of Pyramis and Thisbe.  Susie Mullen, who had been an admirable Nurse in R&J, made a lovely Wall.

The RFB, younger daughter and I made our way back to the house-sit through the dark, under a canopy of summer stars.

Photo: David Bukach

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