Review by Maarika Pinkney
When I entered the Canon Theatre, my expectations soared through the roof. I was about to see an international, highly acclaimed performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at LuminaTO!
There was fabulous jungle gym set (though only exposed once Act II commenced) and three drum kits at the sides of the stage just waiting to be played. Once the play began the lighting was done so perfectly it portrayed every emotion and separated each location flawlessly. There were also large hanging cloths and ropes hanging from the ceiling, just teasing me with visions of Cirque de Soliel-esque acrobatics.
However, despite being thoroughly impressed by the set and lighting design, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy what happens to be my favourite Shakespeare play.
A Sri Lankan and Indian fusion that’s had the amazing opportunity to travel worldwide somehow, in spite of all the energy and obvious fun that was going on onstage seemed to make my heart sink. The Dream play, performed in English and seven other languages, lacked the grounding that every Shakespeare play deserves.
I wanted to see the characters believe in what they were saying without prancing or wandering aimlessly. I should have been able to believe the pain, the jealousy, and the passion through the speech itself, even in the foreign tongues. I felt that the actors depended too much on flighty, sexy choreography and live drumming to get their message across instead of finding the truth behind what they were saying.
There was only one person that I believed, Shanaya Rafaat, the young woman who played Helena. But a play can’t rest on one actor’s shoulders. And the fact that I was able to pick her out as the one person who’s pain and passion I believed, well, that’s something that sends out red flags for me as an audience member.
When the “funny” middle-aged/older men came onstage to perform their own plot within the plot, the jokes were played too big and too blatantly for my taste. However, Joy Fernandes, the actor who played Bottom, was so large and jolly that you couldn’t help but love the joy he seemed to find in delivering text written to be laughed at.
The acrobatic forest spirits I felt too, lacked their own internal purpose. When the ropes and cloths majestically came down to the stage for the forest sprites to climb and fool around on, it seemed only a shameless attempt to show off abs and ability. However, their skill and precision was quite impressive, and almost made me forgive the “hey, look at me,” mugging to the audience. Instead of adding to the story, this kind of action took me out of the play. Maybe they were going for something Brechtian?
Overall it was a visual feast and was an amazing example of technical excellent in theatre design, but it lacked the emotional connection that I look for in shows I go to. I wanted to be engaged with the characters, care what was happening, maybe even forget that they were actors on a stage for a moment and just see them as characters. I didn’t get that. So, if you’re looking for something beautiful then head over to Canon theatre and check this out, if you’re looking for something to envelop you with it’s story, well, you may want to give this one a miss.
– Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at the Canon Theatre ( 244 Victoria Street)
– Runs Saturday, June 14, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, June 15, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
– Tickets are $50 – $70 available through Ticketmaster at 416-872-1111, or in person at T.O Tix at Yonge-Dundas Square