A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Rock Musical

Mon 4th – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Ben Horton

at 09:36 on 11th Aug 2014

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I turned up to this performance with the open mind of one who loves both Shakespeare and (somewhat apologetically) the glitz and artifice of Broadway. Despite any misgivings about the sagacity of combining these two polarised dramatic forms, I hoped that what resulted would put one of literature’s great comedies in a new and flattering light. Such hopes were sadly dismantled irrevocably in the first minutes of this performance as the audience was subjected to a display that made Glee seem about as cheesy as War and Peace.

Yes, I know that musical theatre is a lovably tacky genre at the best of times but in the best shows this element is completely bought into by the entire cast and counterpoints a more subtle and touching central message. Here instead the adaptor George Griggs isolated the most cliché-able part of Shakespeare’s masterpiece (the confusion between the four mortal lovers) and set it in a superficial American culture which has all the charm of Justin Bieber.

Quite aside from the treatment of the source material, the real travesty of this performance was its lame attempt to pull off its “rock musical” billing. Whether budgetary limitations or an uninspired score accounted for the paucity of the accompaniment, someone in the production team must have thought that a piano and acoustic guitar combo wasn’t exactly what people expect of rock music. It rendered the mimed guitar battles between protagonists Dmitri (Gabbie Sansone) and Lysander (Zach Gault) completely tame and faintly ludicrous, whilst the sterility of such accompaniment was matched sadly by some poor vocals from several of the main characters.

In fairness to such a young cast, much of the acting was convincing – what it understandably lacked in maturity was balanced by their enthusiasm. Helena (played by Lindsay Avellino) and Puck (Jessie Shaw) were particularly impressive whilst the actress playing Dmitri delivered a male part with humour and accuracy, her only flaw being her inability to project the lower registers in her solo numbers. This can hardly be seen as a fault of hers, the key should have been transposed or she should not have been cast in that role. This was just one of a series of half-baked ideas, presumably on the part of the production team, which also included the inexplicable portrayal of Oberon (John Madigan) as a puppet.

In general, this show did not fail because of the performances of the individual cast members. Rather the flawed premise, combined with some strange production decisions, cancelled out the strong acting of some admittedly promising young dramatists. It’s safe to say that, on this evidence, rock musical adaptations of Shakespeare are an idea to be fleetingly considered and then forgotten.

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Lucy Diver

at 10:18 on 11th Aug 2014

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This rock musical version of Midsummer Night's Dream was exactly what I expected it to be: soaked in lipgloss, reeking of bubblegum and drained of all peversity. Predictably, they focus on the lovers' quarrel rather than the play-within-a-play or the supernatural elements. Shakespeare's text is all but done away with, leaving us with inane songs with choruses like 'Come with me' and 'Let's fall in love'. They attempt to be catchy, and thet sort of succeed on that front at least. Emotional depth and verbal poetry aren't to be seen.

There are several directorial choices that are more questionable. Oberon, and he alone, is a puppet - although I'm sure his puppeteer could have held his own as an actor. The last song, which has moments of Spanish, seems almost racist. There is also a catfight between Helena and Hermia which would've had Simone de Beauvoir spinning in her grave.

The saving grace of the play is the obvious talent of the young cast. Mickey Melillo is a reasonable comic actor. Lindsay Avellino is a stand-out: hilariously infatuated but also the most capable of conveying an emotional depth. Her voice also sees to me to be the best. Catherine Saraceno also has potential to be a much stronger actor, but she is hampered by a shawl that she needs to ditch. Jessie Shaw is also compelling: a strong voice, solid comic timing and perhaps the best dancer and Gabbie Sansone does a good job playing a feisty boy.

There are a few comic moments: a joke about Calvin Klein, some nice audience interaction, and a mischevious chorus of fairies. The puppy-like, obsessive love was reasonably well conveyed. On the whole however, the talent of the young cast was hidden by the contrived production.

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