A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Director: Fred Abrahamse

Cast: Terence Bridgett, Marcel Meyer, Kim Cloete, James Macgregor, Nicholas Campbell, Zondwa

Njokweni, Hannah Borthwick, Sven Ruygrok

Venue: Maynardville Open-Air Theatre

Until: March 16

Rating: ****

‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!” exclaims Puck, the unruly sprite whose ill-considered ministrations promote rather than mitigate the inherent folly of protagonists in this whimsical comedy. If an alternative title were to be found for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fifty Shades of Folly would do nicely.

Presided over by an almost-full moon (planet of lunacy), this al fresco version of Fred Abrahamse’s 2012 production is even more enchanting than the original staged at Artscape Theatre; the artful use of technology to conjure up a surreal universe works exceptionally well in the sylvan grandeur of Maynardville.

A significant cast change from last year’s MND is that of Nick Bottom (now undertaken with considerable panache by Terence Bridgett). Flamboyant and supremely confident in this role, Bridgett shamelessly upstages everyone on stage to make himself the darling of the audience.

He impersonates the chef of the Athens Luxury Game Lodge – which replaces ancient Athens as the setting of the action.

The choice is wholly appropriate, since a recreational venue such as this evokes both a desirable honeymoon destination and pervasive animal presence, naturally resonating with the threefold nuptials of the finale, and recurrent feral imagery of the text.

Collective showstealers are the staff of said game lodge when they rehearse, then perform, the grotesque drama of Pyramus and Thisbe for their audience of newly-weds. Their efforts are reminiscent of Monty Python… more lunacy.

Marcel Meyer and Kim Cloete impress by their versatility in undertaking double roles (Theseus/ Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania respectively). Their transitions from one to the other are seamlessly executed, and the changes of accent, bearing and persona plausible.

Sven Ruygrok is an athletic and simian Puck with an obvious affinity with the animal world, while the chief tour de force of the production is the substitution of fairy-lights for the likes of Cobweb, Mustard-Seed, and Titania’s other attendants. No kitsch ornaments or gauze drapery to suggest little people; those darting gleams are far more evocative of denizens of the other-world.

As for the four confused young lovers, they are amiable and handsome as a good comedy demands, with Hannah Borthwick (Helena) standing out for her earthy naivety – a beautifully rounded portrayal of a tricky role.

One again, Abrahamse has put his stamp on a hoary play to offer his audience something fresh and brimming with vitality.