This version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes from Alberta, Canada and unfortunately some locale choices made for this production do not help its accessibility. Two accents are used which do not make sense to those who are not familiar with the setting of the Queen Charlotte Islands, leading to questions afterwards about why such were chosen when it meant lines became unintelligible for one character and nearly so for another.
These are specifics that do not help the production, but in general the handling of Shakespeare by school pupils can be fraught (it is not the easiest for adults, after all) and stronger casting and acting direction is needed here. As is usual in such productions, minor characters often lack confident performance skills, respond very slowly to cues and speak lines rather than think and feel them. Not so usual was finding that the latter problem affected most of the principals as well, though Jessica Glover did imbue Hermia with animated character, and a lot of pausing within lines broke meaning and contributed to the overall pedestrian pace, the production being slightly shorter than advertised but feeling much longer. Comedy was particularly affected by this, despite efforts to embody the comic ‘mechanicals’ with humorous characteristics. Some words and lines were not understood and the rhythm of the verse was not used to assist meaning, especially apparent in the pronunciation of Lysander, where the first syllable was glaringly strong. Shakespeare’s verse really does help directors and actors to know which words and syllables are to be emphasised and it is frustrating that this should be all so often missed in productions.
Thankfully, Puck was well-played with a device that worked effectively, three actresses taking the role, sharing lines, playing with Puck’s self-descriptions, responding throughout to the action and speaking clearly and with energy in synchronised parts. One of the three, who excelled in responses and a very child-like sound and energy, would be helped by lowering her pitch slightly at times and having more vocal support in order for the audience not to lose some lines, but in all Christina Harbak, Jennifer Wong and Alyssa Ellis shone in this production, showing true acting skill with fine direction for their character.
The set consisted of a platform frame, creating landscape for the woods, allowing three levels where the complicated relationships of four lovers and of a fairy queen played out reasonably well, though its use artificialised some exits in a way that again slowed proceedings. Young harpist and composer Jia Jia Yong accompanied scenes with some beautiful music, though in relation to a fairy song the pacing influenced a rather slow rendition that did not need the time it took as the singing and dancing was not enough to really entertain.
Overall, slow delivery and lack of acting technique hampers this A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though costume is colourful and Puck does shine.
By Danielle Farrow
19 – 23 August (not 20), various times (duration 1hr30) @ Church Hill Theatre