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Shakespeare’s Triumphant Return to the Festival

A bit of the Bard: A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the first play in the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts’ inaugural Shakespeare On The Rock Series

A Midsummer Night’s Dream forms part of an outreach programme created by the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts to familiarise youngsters with the works of Shakespeare.

Accordingly, the enthusiastic audience in Saturday’s matinee performance, directed by Helen Tennison, was largely composed of high school students.

The production was quite marvellous, played on a minimalist set with strikingly original music.

Dances were Bollywood style with unfussy, yet effective costumes and dreamlike magical sequences to punctuate the story.

James Burton (Theseus, duke of Athens and Oberon, king of the fairies) and his female counterpart in both roles, Kudzanayi Chiwawa (Hippolyta, queen of the amazons and Titania, queen of the fairies) formed the anchor of the play around which the many subplots revolved.

Paul Sockett as Demetrius, George Oliver as Lysander, Susan Hingly as Hermia and Hannah Brackstone-Brown as Helena all energised their roles with an intense physicality and completely believable sensibility.

Filip Krenus’s Bottom morphed beautifully into the great ancestral coarse acting role of Pyramus in the “play within the play”, complete with an absurdly interminable death scene commented on by Burton and Chiwawa, who were occupying the governor’s box in the theatre.

Sheetal Kapoor as Puck captivated us with subtle, sly, ironic humour backed with huge, almost preternatural physical energy. Her singing and dancing was in the Indian Kathak style, with authentic intonation and subtle movements.

My only niggles with this wonderful production were first, the fog machine for supernatural or fairy entrances was a bit overused — one almost expected Valkyries to enter stage left rather than Oberon — and the fog did spill into the audience where it stuck in the throat.

And second, the impressionistic costume change for Bottom as donkey was not noticeable to some of the audience who, like me, expected the full traditional panto headworks, something which makes Titania’s infatuation all the more ludicrous.

But this is minor. We all enjoyed this show which marks a triumphant return for Shakespeare to the Festival.