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Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’ faithful to writer, place
2014-09-04
By Li Anlan

TONG Yao, a professor of English at East China University of Political Science and Law, immediately bought eight tickets for Shakespeare’s Globe’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for family and friends when she learned about the original play to debut in Shanghai late this month.

“I became very interested in Shakespeare after reading ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the high school library, and because of my major in university I’m more into the English literature,” she says.

Since ticket sales for the Shakespeare production opened in mid-July in Shanghai, more than 90 percent of the tickets have been sold out.

As the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe since 2006, Dominic Dromgoole, an English theater director and writer, is the man behind this critically acclaimed new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

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He says that when he was directing this play last year, he enjoyed exploring the world of the fairies and trying to understand what their dramatic function would be.

“I think the most fascinating problem in it is ‘How do you love each other forever?’ That’s the problem Oberon and Titania have, because they will never die and they love each other, so they know they’re going to love each other for eternity. I think that’s the most difficult, most fascinating problem to solve,” he says.

“But then there’s also the problem of these three very different worlds — the young lovers, the mechanicals and the fairies — and how you make them part of the same human document. You have to try to make all of them as accessible and understandable and readable as you can,” he adds.

Dromgoole started from the text and the words of the play itself, trying not to put too much on top of that.

“We also thought a lot about when the play was first performed, about Shakespeare’s own world and how it might have been presented and received in his own time and his own place,” he says. “There’s a rumor that the play was first presented at an Elizabethan wedding, and I think that was in our heads a little bit.”

Dromgoole has directed various works by Shakespeare. He always concentrates first and foremost on what the words mean.

“So you start from the language itself and then look at the way in which that entire world and that language change in accordance with the play,” he says. “You try to maintain an approach that is primarily about understanding the words, and is then very flexible.”

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During his years as artistic director, Dromgoole has aimed at telling the story clearly and reflecting the desire of the writer.

“Shakespeare wrote for that place, he wrote for the architecture, he wrote for that relationship with the audience. So you aim to respect that, to respect the relationship with the audience, but above and beyond all that make the story and the language clear,” he says.

Shakespeare’s Globe has done six productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” previously, and this new one employs Renaissance costumes and staging designed by Jonathan Fensom.

“It is very enjoyable to watch the physicality of the actors, the fusion of dance and action, the way that an Elizabethan world devolves into a more magical world of the language and the music of the language,” says Dromgoole.

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Date: September 19-21, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 280-1,280 yuan

 

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