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Of mortal fools and faeries

MADC works Shakespeare’s magic on an enchanted summer night

Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
San Anton Gardens
André Delicata

It is always brave to put up one of Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular plays – one which parents try to use to introduce their children to the Bard’s works.

MADC, under the direction of Nanette Brimmer, has once again put up A Midsummer Night’s Dream, last staged nine years ago. This year’s production was thankfully, once again, staged at San Anton Gardens, which could not have been a better setting for a play which takes part mostly in the enchanted forest outside Athens.

Even the weather added to the atmosphere on the opening night, with very strong breezes rustling the leaves in the trees and creating a feeling of discord between Oberon (Anthony Edridge) and Titania (Julia Calvert) – the Faerie King and Queen, whose lovers’ tiff is the basis of all the comedy which follows.

Both Edridge and Calvert executed their roles well: showing that imperiousness need not be a hindrance to love. Their clarity of diction and poise gave the two fantastical creatures a strength which bolstered their emotional credibility.

Christian Galea’s Puck deserves praise for being his playful interpretation of a naughty sprite whose loyalty to Oberon never falters, but is enhanced by his fallibility and his mistaking one young Athenian man for another: he first anoints Lysander’s (Joseph Zammit) eyes rather than Demetrius’s (Davide Tucci), and then rectifying his misdemeanour by enchanting Demetrius too, causing them both to fall in love with Helena (Steffi Thake).

The latter is insulted by the fact that two men now seem to be vying for her affections when before there were none – a ploy, she believes, they along with Hermia (Maria Buckle), Lysander’s love interest; have all orchestrated to tease and torture her.

Thake’s Helena was funny and awkward in just the right way, following Tucci’s proud and aloof Demetrius into the woods as he searches for his betrothed Hermia, who has eloped with the overly romantic Lysander.

I found Zammit’s Lysander to be rather too generic and his usual comedic talent was not put to it its best use, especially in his scene with Hermia, which Buckle interpreted well. However, Zammit shone in the action scene with Tucci, where they jostle for Helena’s affection while keeping the two women apart, as they fight and throw insults at each other.

Theseus and Hippolyta, played by Roger Tirazona and Becky D’Ugo, were stately in their portrayal and matched the regal quality of the Faerie King and Queen, who were serenaded beautifully by a host of faeries, thanks to the musical arrangements and vocal coaching by Tirazona. So good were the vocals that some people actually mistook them for playback singing, rather than live – which proves the quality of the pieces.

Director Nanette Bimmer, who also designed the costumes constructed beautifully by Louie Noir and complimented with hair by Michael & Guy, did a great job in bringing her vision to life by using the space available efficiently and adding near-storybook quality to the way in which the characters were dressed and interacted. The set was simple and much of the drama was created by Chris Gatt’s lighting design.

And, naturally, as Shakespeare often does, he uses some self-deprecating humour and includes a play-within-a-play with The Mechanicals putting up a performance for themarriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, bringing in the mayhem and fun. Peter Qunice (Michael Mangion) Bottom (Joe Depasquale), Flute (Myron Ellul), Straveling (Colin Willis), Snout (Alexander Gatesy Lewis) and Snug (Leander Schembri) play bumbling buffoons who try desperately to put up a tragedy, which ends in comedy.

Depasuale played Bottom with gusto and delivered a funny, conceited yet likeable character, whose transformation into an ass made a fool of Titania and brought her closer to Oberon. The Mechanicals prove that audiences across the ages enjoy good comic timing and this, coupled with strong direction and execution, means that this year’s performance is a very enjoyable one. Definitely worth watching: it’s a professional, slick production to end this year’s theatre season.

• MADC’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream is being staged again from tonight until Sunday at San Anton Gardens in Attard at 8.30pm. For tickets, log on to www.madc.com.mt.

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