IN one month, the prestigious Shakespeare’s Globe from London will present its critically acclaimed new production “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Shanghai, the first stop on the troupe’s debut tour of China.
Three performances will be staged.
This year marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, widely considered the greatest writer in the English language.
This new production premiered in May 2013 in London and was widely recognized for its dreamy atmosphere on stage. It ran for 64 performances that season.
The classical comedy has been adapted numerous times into musicals, ballets, films and TV.
Dominic Dromgoole has been artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe since 2006, and he directs this new production.
“When we did this last year, we found it hugely enjoyable, with the amount of laughter and the amount of freedom of laughter in the play,” he says. “We also investigated thoroughly the relationships. I think we found new elements to the story between Theseus and Hippolyta and Oberon and Titania and uncovered stuff and made stuff clear that hasn’t been made as clear before.”
He explains that the new production particularly relishes the youthful passion between the young lovers in the middle, and hopefully unlocks some of the earthy pagan wildness of the fairies, their passions for each other and their attachment to each other.
“And we enjoyed revealing the very earthbound rough magic that occurs at the heart of the play simultaneously with the spirit — a spirit drawn from nature,” Dromgoole says.
The production was designed by Jonathan Fensom and features music by Claire van Kampen. Most of the cast this year is new, and Dromgoole says they will bring a whole new energy to the roles.
The play was positively received by critics upon its premiere last year. Critic Charles Spencer of The Telegraph wrote that “Dominic Dromgoole’s lively, affectionate and consistently inventive staging beautifully captures both the humor and the disconcerting strangeness of the play ... This is a joyously inventive and touching production of The Dream, a work that seems particularly close to Shakespeare’s heart.”
Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theater, which was built in 1599 by Lord Chamberlain’s Men and was destroyed in 1613 by fire.
It was rebuilt in 1614 and demolished again in 1644. Today it was founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker and opened in 1997, standing a few hundred yards from its original site.
When asked about the challenges of touring abroad with a major production like this, Dromgoole says there really are none.
“I think that Shakespeare was such an astonishing storyteller that he’s managed to always combine physical plastic elements with auditory ones and with the text and the language, so within the glorious poetry there is also a very rich language that you can explore on the stage which tells the story as effectively as the poetry does,” he says.
Shakespeare’s plays toured abroad in his own days, being performed not only in England but also across Northern Europe.
“We know that Hamlet was played in a boat off the coast of Yemen in 1608,” Dromgoole says. “The physical elements were always there to help tell the story above and beyond language.”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed in English with Chinese subtitles. After Shanghai, the company will perform in Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong and at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Date: September 19-21, 7:15pm
Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong
Tickets: 280-1,280 yuan
Set in the woodland and the realm of Fairyland, Theseus, Duke of Athens, is preparing to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and celebrate with a 4-day festival.
A courtierÕs daughter, Hermia, wouldnÕt agree to his choice of Demetrius as a husband because sheÕs in love with Lysander. Theseus tells Hermia to obey her father, die or become a nun in DianaÕs temple.
Lysander and Hermia plan to elope, and they tell Helena, whoÕs in love with Demetrius, but Demetrius hates her and loves Hermia.
The lovers run away from Athens but get lost in the woods. They are followed by Demetrius, then Helena.
Oberon, king of the fairies, has quarreled with his queen, Titania, over an Indian boy she refuses to give him. After he overhears Helena and Demetrius arguing, he sends his mischievous servant Puck to get a flower with a nectar that has the power to make people fall in love with the first creature they see.
Puck mistakenly puts some drops into the eyes of the sleeping Lysander so that when he is awakened by Helena he immediately falls in love with her and rejects Hermia.
Some artisans are rehearsing a play about the tragic love story of Pyramus and Thisbe to present before Theseus on his wedding day. Puck overhears their rehearsals and he plays a trick on them by giving Bottom a donkeyÕs head, which frightens the others away.
Bottom is lured toward the sleeping Titania, whom Oberon has treated with the magic nectar. On waking, she falls in love with the donkey and entertains him with her fairies, but when Bottom falls asleep beside her, Oberon restores TitaniaÕs sight and wakes her. She is appalled at the sight of what she has been in love with and is reunited with Oberon.
In the end, Puck puts nectar on LysanderÕs eyes before the lovers are awakened by Theseus and Hippolyta and their dawn hunting party.
Happily reunited, Lysander with Hermia, Demetrius with Helena, agree to share the DukeÕs wedding day. The rustics perform the play of Pyramus and Thisbe before the wedding guests. As the three couples retire, Puck and the fairies return to bless the palace and its people.