"English classic meets Japanese style"
by Nina Romain for remotegoat on 09/02/09

This new take on A Midsummer Night's Dream sees the adventures of four young Athenian lovers transformed to the Kaga court of Daimyo Theseus, where Hermia is now in love with the young samurai Lysander.

The play took inspiration from Japanese Kabuki dance, Noh theatre and Kyogen clowns, and each actor play two parts, both a main character and then in headscarf becomes the Kaga craftsmen, or labourers in the original ("rude mechanicals", as Bottom scathingly calls them).

However, if you are going to to do a Samurai Japanese remake of this English classic, advertised with publicity photos of actors in full geisha-style make up and ceremonial dress, why not dress the actors and stage accordingly? The audience seemed slightly puzzled by the lack of ornate decoration in the play, after the sumptuous decoration on the publicity. The "enchanted forest" setting turned out to be stark, with the only set dressing two paintings of bonsai trees at each end, and the stage created of plain raised wood platforms in three layers.

The audience loved the roughhouse comedy, as well as the clown routines of Puck (Jay Oliver Yip) which were energetic and entertaining. The cast never seem to stop moving, climbing up ladders and perching on the wall 20 feet above the audience to give an idea of the creative hyperactivity of the play. The catfighting scene between Hermia (Nina Kwok) and Helena (Julia Sandiford) went on a little long, but was well received.

The traditional Japanese outfits were colourful and the plain white facemasks added to the air of swapping identities. Matt McCooey when playing Nick Bottom was entertaining and laidback, sporting a wild shock of straw hair added to his ass' head.

Director Jonathan Man keeps the pace brisk as the familiar tale of deception and falling in love bowls along. The cast gave it their all, undeterred by the trains rumbling ahead in the London Bridge station threatening to drown their lines, and performed well as a team. This interesting remake is a fascinating idea, but maybe needs to live up to the fairytale prettiness its name suggests.

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