A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Director: Guy De Lancey

CAST: Adam Neill, Danieyella Rodin, Jeroen Kronenburg, Andrew Laubscher, Emily Child, Shaun Acker, Scott Sparrow, Julia Anastasopoulos, Adrian Collins, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Dorian Burstein, Vaneshran Arumugam, Mikkie-Dene le Roux, Carel Nel, Carl van Vrede and John Skotnes

Venue: The Intimate Theatre

Until: March 31

Rating: ****

It’s not very often one gets to write that a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is kick-ass. So, thanks guys.

The Mechanicals take the Bard’s beloved comedy and flip it neatly and bravely, revealing the underside of characters all too often clothed in frippery and frivolity. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it’s awesome.

Productions traditionally delight in the potential of the sylvan setting and load themselves with prettiness and whimsy at the expense of the play’s dark under-currents. Guy de Lancey and his team don’t so much dip their toes in it as dive in, grow gills and swim around the bottom like naughty, sexy sharks.

The story stays the same: young lovers elope to a nearby forest where they are enchanted by mischievous fairies. Hermia (Emily Child) is in love with Lysander (Andrew Laubscher), but her father Egeus (Jeroen Kronenburg) wants her to marry Demetrius (Shaun Acker) who is being pursued by Hermia’s friend, Helena (Julia Anastasopoulos). The four young lovers escape to the forest where they are observed by the fairy king Oberon (Scott Sparrow), himself caught up in a love tangle with his beloved queen Titania (Tinarie Van Wyk Loots). Oberon directs the loyal Puck (Adrian Collins) to anoint Titania and the humans’ eyes with juice from a special flower, which acts as a love potion.

What usually ensues at this point is a light comedy of mistaken identities, inverted affections and crowd-pleasing resolutions. This production, however, where almost every character is a dark and twisted mirror image of their usual selves, refuses to play it safe and instead explores obsession, dementia and the nature of love. The humans are silly little puppets to be toyed with by the otherworldly inhabitants of the forest. The latter are portrayed more as demons than fairies.

The production design is instrumental in conveying that this is more of a nightmare than a dreamscape. So we have Oberon wearing a tunic that looks like a straitjacket, a rope tied around his waist and blood dripping from his mouth. Titania’s misshapen teeth and gothic dress conveys macabre majesty.

The set design of dry bushes, mirrors and curtains augments the sinister atmosphere, as does Luke Ellenbogen’s excellent lighting design.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. The play has a nimble sense of humour and sports great physical comedy. The performances are excellent, with Collins’ stoic Puck, Arumugam’s pompous Bottom and Child’s formidable Hermia being standouts.

It’s a hell of a show.