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High art meets vaudeville in Shakespearian classic


The Russians have been a bit selective in their version of Midsummers Night's Dream focusing just on the brief tale of Pyramus and Thisbe which is near the close of Shakespeare's play.


John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 08 Mar 2014

A Midsummers Nights Dream (As you like it)
Dmitry Krymov
Dmitry Krymov Laboratory
New Zealand Festival
St James Theatre
February 27 – March 2

The Russiass have been a bit selective in their version of  A Midsummers Nigh'ts Dream focusing just on the brief tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, which is near the close of Shakespeare's play.

In this version a group of actors assemble to present what they describe as an unfinished version of the story. Their arrival on stage is chaotic as they enter from  the theatre itself carrying various props, mainly a large tree trunk and a few branches which the audience are required to manhandle over the seats. They also bring on  a spurting fountain which malfunctions, spaying the the audience in the front rows with water.

The cast is an odd mixture of actors, singers, acrobats, musicians and a Jack Russell terrier who seems to be the most assured and capable of the troupe. The show also comes with its own audience of more than 20 people, replicating the various members of the Athenian court who are present in the Shakespearian version. These audience members  interjected and commented on the play and its messages, wrecked part of the set, did not turn off their cell phones and expressed outrage at the pornographic nature of Pyramus's engorged penis as well as Thisbe's on-stage toileting.

This tale of the courtship of Pyramus and Thisbe varied between being an operatic version  and a circus version of the play within a play, owing more to Samuel Beckett and Monty Python then The Bard.

The two main characters of Pyramus and Thisbe are actually large six metre high, gangling puppets who are controlled by half a dozen puppeteers, the dialogue performed by a hopeless MC and an opera singer.

What happened on stage was a series of inept and misguided attempts to create a short drama by a cast unsure of their roles, unclear about the story and lacking any clear direction, with the corps de ballet performance of the Dance of the Swans from Swan Lake providing the only well rehearsed element of the evening and a suitable piece of anarchy to  close this grand piece of absurd theatre.

While this was an uproarious performnce, with high art meeting vaudeville, there were underlying serious aspects to it. As an investigation into the anatomy of theatre and the relationship between performers and  audience it was brilliantly conceived. It could also be read as a metaphor for the manipulative and censorious nature of Russsia's internal and external interference in personal and political activities.

John Daly-Peoples attended the New Zealand Festival thanks to The New Zealand Festival and Quality Hotels

John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 08 Mar 2014
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High art meets vaudeville in Shakespearian classic
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