A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Webster Theatre Glasgow,
This play performed by City of Glasgow College students who believe that it is “Shakespeare’s themes that make his plays eternal and relevant to modern audiences.His language is rich,evocative and often misunderstood therefor we have placed our production within the often misunderstood realms of youth culture particularly PUNK!”
Not your typical thespian offering then? Certainly not, this Shakespeare work has been shook up,intensified and a whole new musical score thrown in.We were indulged in Siouxsie and The Banshees “Spellbound” The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go?” Madness’”Baggy Trousers”and The Skids “Into the valley”
The attire might have been wildly different but the plot didn’t deviate too much.But when it did,it made for great theatrical and colloquial entertainment.
Egeus, an Athenian nobleman with a self styed Leonardo DiCaprio look about him, enters Theseus’s court with his daughter, Hermia, and two punks, Demetrius and Lysander. Egeus demands Hermia to marry Demetrius (who loves Hermia), but Hermia is in love with Lysander and refuses to comply. Egeus asks for the full penalty of law to fall upon Hermia’s head if she disobeys her father’s will. Theseus gives Hermia until his own wedding to Hippolyta to consider her options, warning her that ignoring her father’s wishes will result in her being sent to a convent or worse, the death penalty. Despite this, Hermia and Lysander plan to escape Athens that night . Helena (who was once engaged to Demetrius and still loves him even though he jilted her after meeting Hermia) tells Demetrius of the elopement that Hermia and Lysander have planned. At the appointed time, Demetrius stalks into the woods after Hermia and Lysander with Helena close behind.
In the woods we meet Oberon, the fairy king, (Khumbo Misanjo) and Titania, his Pre-Raphaelite Queen fairy. We are also introduced to a band of Athenian actors rehearsing a play directed by the amusing Quince(Aisha Marr).
Oberon sends his well intentioned servant Puck into the woods with a magical flower, the juice of which makes the recipient fall in love with the first thing he or she sees upon waking. Tatania wakes up to discover she is temporarily in love with Bottom, one of the actors who has been turned by Puck into an ass.The irony of this is not missed by the crowd. Titania passes a ludicrous interlude doting on the ass-headed Wiltshire accented thespian.
Having seen Demetrius act cruelly toward Helena, Oberon gets Puck to spread some of the juice on the eyelids of the “man in the leather jacket”. Puck encounters Lysander and Hermia in the forrest and assumes that Lysander is Demetrius (because he is also in leather).Puck afflicts him with the love potion. Lysander awakes and falls deeply and hysterically in love with Helena immediately abandoning Hermia. Both Hermia and Helena are confused at Demetrius and Lysander now vying for Helena ,who had been so rejected earlier. Helena had given a great performance in an earlier scene when she was trying to win back Demetrius ,clinging to his leg as he tried to shake her off
“I am your spaniel”….beg beg…”Oh you do me mischief…we were made to woo.I’ll find happiness in my misery,Get back here”as she chased him off the stage.The words themselves weren’t funny but the actions were.Her antics were so well acted that she won us over with her clandestine dog impersonation.
Jilted Hermia exclaims ”you cheat,you fake you love thief” to bewildered Helena telling her of her luck “that my nails can’t reach your eyes”-she is vertically challenged compared to Helena’s lofty stature. There is a lot of Glesga creative licence going on with Demetrius and Lysander fighting in untypical Shakespeare verse
“come here ya bottlemerchant”
Helena believes that all three(Hermia,Demitrius and Lysander) are mocking her. Hermia becomes so jealous that she has a square go with Helena which is done in true comedy romp style and highly amusing for the audience.
One of the highlights is Puck re-arranging the exhausted post fight bodies of Hermia and Lysander together and Helena and Dimitris so that they will definitely see and fall for each other when they wake up after Puk’s secondary attempt to put things right via the love potion.Alls well that ends well.Demetrius now loves Helena, and Lysander now loves Hermia.
The lovers watch Bottom and his fellow craftsmen perform their play hilarious version of the story of Pyramus and bearded, dress wearing, booted (with different coloured socks)Thisbe.This involves trying to kiss each other through a chink in a wall.After the kiss Thisbe states
‘Oh I kissed the walls’ hole’.The wall then tells us
‘I’ve played my part, I the wall will depart’
and as she turns the audience is able to read the graffiti on her back that
‘Bottom is an arse’
Thisbe looks out at the audience trying to find Pyramis
‘Where is my love?’
Immediately he is heckled by a middle aged woman in the audience
“Here I am Baby”
Well, that was it,the whole theatre erupted.Thisbe was unfazed and equally amused as he took control of finishing the play within a play.
Thisbe in broad Glaswegian had the audience in the palm of her (his) hand with such an exaggerated command of Shakespeare iambic pentameter which is sidesplittingly humorous in this Scottish dialect. Bottom eventually stabs himself as Pyramis in Quinces play
“Die,Die”repeatedly in his boulder holder Wiltshire slang which was funny enough tIll one of the onlooking fairies laments
“just die,it’s getting ridiculous,” in a deadpan aside which doesn’t seem scripted.
“Now,I’m dead” Bottom has his last word which prompts the daft dressed Thisbe to commit suicide as well to his comic Glesga, “Adieu Adieu Adieu”
Puck remains, to ask the audience for its forgiveness and to clap hands and sing along to “Come on Eileen” for the final joyous dance.
So yes, this is not your typical William and I commend the young actors for their creative adaptation.
Reviewer Clare Crines