Review: Caribbean Dream (Speakeasy Productions)

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream gets some spicy Caribbean flavour at Toronto’s Annex Theatre.

Just in time for Carnival Marvin Ishmael’s Caribbean Dream (Speakeasy Productions) – an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – opened tonight at the Annex Theatre to a sold out house. They even had to turn people away.

It’s an interesting idea to set A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Keele and Finch just before Caribana. Ishmael directed as well as adapted the play and has included costumes, music and dance that make us think of carnival.

There isn’t a choreography credit in the program so I can’t congratulate the choreographer, but I wish I could. but someone left a comment and said that it was Katelyn McCulloch. The choreography was terrific. Katelyn McCulloch’s aerial dancing was breathtaking and, at one point, very funny. I haven’t ever thought of dance as funny but there was more than one laugh-out-loud dance scene.

The fabric panels that aerial dancers use are called silks – I looked it up – and in the show they were used as part of the set as well as for the aerial dances. In one scene the fairies are supposed to hide in the forest. They wrap themselves in the silks and the silks look like trees.

I love the play within the play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a chance for the actors to be over the top. I always wonder how long it’s going to take Pyramus to die after he stabs himself in the heart. Tonight was perfect. I didn’t count, but there were just enough dyings and then the one more that makes it incredibly funny. The actors were all terrific. Their performances were a great combination of exaggeration and subtlety. Not an easy thing to achieve.

It’s the first time that I’ve seen – or been aware of – Patty Quince (the director of the play within the play) giving stage directions. They were so funny and so well done.

This production is a strong ensemble piece. Having said that, each of the actors stood out in some way without stealing the show. It felt as if they were all working together and enjoying themselves. The audience was certainly enjoying themselves.

The Annex is an old theatre and it’s a bit like an arena – the stage is at the front of a semi-circle. There is a small stage but most of the action took place on the floor. The entrances and exits were in the aisles. At times it was difficult to hear the dialogue. I’m not sure if that was a function of the design, the acoustics, or the fact that the entrances and exits were quite noisy. It didn’t particularly detract from the piece; the story was easy enough to follow.

If you’ve been a bit leery about going to see a Shakespeare play, Caribbean Dream is a good place to start. It’s light and funny and easy to follow.

Although you can – in theory – buy tickets at the door, I’d recommend that you buy them in advance so that you won’t be disappointed.

Details:

– Caribbean Dream is playing at the Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street) until July 28th
– Performances are at 8 pm, doors open at 7.30
– Tickets are $25 Adults, $20 Students and $15 children under 12
– Tickets are available by phone at 647-938-280

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