Shakespeare’s Magic Story Is Brought To South Africa

Shakespeare’s story of magic and romance in the woods on the summer solstice is brought into a vibrant, passionate, unashamedly South African light with this production at the UJ Arts Centre from 11 to 21 August 2010 [Wednesdays to Saturdays at 19:30].

A cast of 32 passionate young actors and a collaboration between two of South Africa’s luminaries in theatre – Dorothy Ann Gould and Sylvaine Strike, makes for a unique mix of beautiful story telling through verse and a physical power and freedom that roots the play in our own countryside.

This an evening of love, comedy, spectacle and magic not to be missed.

If we look for any confirmation that Shakespeare’s stories are still accessible to us 400 years on, we need look no further than at the themes apparent in this charming, magical comedy : marriage for love as opposed to arranged marriages, a group of amateur actors wanting to perform for their sovereign in the hope of some small recognition and remuneration, a benevolent dictator who is a ’renaissance’ man with a love of music, poetry and drama, supposed bewitching and magic and a possible plane on which supernatural occurrences take place, totally beyond our comprehension and foul weather disrupting life on every level.

Shakespeare weaves four stories into his play – the young lovers at loggerheads with society and parental guidance, Theseus and Hippolyta ‘lingering their desires’ until they can celebrate their imminent marriage, an amateur theatrical group performing a play about love and marriage – the tragic comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe and lastly, the tempestuous relationship between the King and Queen of the fairies over an adopted child!

Setting much of the play in the nearby woods at night allows for an ‘otherworld’ in which anything can happen – a ’bush may be supposed a bear,’ the young lovers are having identity crises – ‘am not I Hermia? Are not you Lysander?’ Even the leading actor in the amateur group rehearsing in the wood succumbs to the transformation as he is bewitched and turned into an ass, did it happen? Did he dream it?

Both in form and feeling, Shakespeare’s Dream is the most lyrical and poetic of his plays with it’s reflections upon imagination and dreams; the evocation of fairyland, of the moonlit wood and of Romantic Love, make for a glowing, passionate story.

In bringing this story to the stage, I feel extremely lucky to have collaborated with the incredible Sylvaine Strike. I have always loved Shakespeare’s verse and the opportunity to stretch young actors to meet its rigorous technical demands; I have also always enjoyed the unexpected on stage and a good dose of lateral thinking; Sylvaine has enabled me to crystallize my wild imaginings and her superb body work has helped this team of young actors to perform as one unit in a robust, muscular and challenging way.

In one of the most beautiful passages in the play, Theseus says ‘ Lovers and madmen have such seething brains’- so do creative animals; our job has been to combine our creative talents to bring to you a cohesive picture, an event full of colour and passion and charm. It is the poet who turns imagination into shapes upon the page and ‘ gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name’ but it is every individual involved in bringing a five act play to the stage who supply the commitment and dedication to make that blueprint fresh and, we hope, exciting and challenging theatre.