4 August, Taradale High School By Anna Soutar
We went in from the wintry day, where rain and cold prevailed despite a few brave daffodils and battered magnolia petals, into Midsummer, to be met by an elf with garland of summery flowers and henna patterned hands. This is Jane Pierard, producer and guide for us into the Fairyland of William Shakespeare, a 400 year old fantasy about young love, magic and happiness ever after.
Then and today, this play is the realm of the Nearly-not-quite: seasonal change, reality, being an adult, leaving childhood. The truth here is that the dozens of young people in this play are on the cusp of adulthood, nearly, but not quite, grown up. They are still able to believe and more important, make us in the audience believe in the bewitching moments of young love.
Fairy Jane has magicked them well. From the glades where the fairies giggle and chatter, to the solemn reception gallery where Theseus and Hippolyta hold court, these young people quite literally take the stage. They are confidant and skilled, and disciplined even as they practice the confusion this story hangs on. My favourite moment was early in the performance, when the Queen of the Fairies, Titania (Anna Kelland), calls a name loudly: “Puck!” and instantly, across the forest, like a scatter of dried leaves in an autumn breeze the stage empties. In a moment, dozens of elementals have somehow vanished.
Of course, the name did it. Who does not shiver when the tricky Puck – played here by Josh Jamieson – is about? Who, it has to be said, occasionally slips up and lays the wrong spell upon the wrong eyelid?
The mortals who experience this distressing mistake are the nearest this production comes to real life: two pairs of lovers criss-crossed into confusion, lost in the dark woods. Perhaps this is the hardest to perform, yet they do it delightfully, the girls swapping insults, the boys quick to resort to violent fights. And all are shocked to discover what they had found themselves doing when the truth quite literally slipped from their eyes.
And poor befuddled Bottom (Jordan Dunn), suddenly the centre of the feminine attention of Titania’s sprites, wooed with the wondrous music – another contribution from the many-talented Fairy Jane – is lost for words and slips into sleep and, of course, blissful dreams. He is absolutely believable as the blustering “I can do it all!” Mechanical.
Leaders there are and must be, people who command respect and obedience. Among the cast there are clearly some who are ready now to take on that task. There will be a Theseus the military officer, an Oberon the spirit Lord, and a Peter Quince, played with affectionate stubbornness by Christopher Eldridge. It is he who stops Bottom from making a complete fool of himself over the Mechanicals’ play, coaxing his shy workmen to perform for the Royal Wedding party. The staging includes vigorous entrances through the audience, music and shouts larger than life as they run, process, and parade towards the stage.
And throughout, love will win the day. After, that is, the tears and the pain, not helped by that naughty imp, Puck. For as the Bard says, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” There’s the truth of it, whether you wear a sari, read by signs, sing your enchantments, wear a silly headdress or fight desperately with your best friend, it’s what makes the world go round.
We have to go out into the cold and wet again, but warm in our hearts, thanks to this group of young adults.
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