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Theatre review: ‘Midsummer’ delights in Cupids

Andrew Tremblett as Robin Goodfellow in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, directed by Danielle Irvine at Perchance Theatre in Cupids, July 21. — Pamela Whelan photo
Andrew Tremblett as Robin Goodfellow in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Danielle Irvine at Perchance Theatre in Cupids, July 21. — Pamela Whelan photo

Audience quick to their feet to applaud Danielle Irvine’s stellar Shakespeare production

Nestled in the trees at the end of a grassy field in Cupids, Perchance Theatre is an idyllic setting for Shakespeare’s story of fantasy, trickery, and love, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The play is uniquely relevant to local audiences because of its fairies. These are not the sprites of Neverland, but of Newfoundland and European lore. They are mischievous, untrustworthy and spectral. They can be seen and unseen at will, and can freeze humans, and each other, as they see fit.

The fairies enter from the shadows, clad in leaves and vines — they climb and crawl along the balcony, the ground and the stage, swaying as Oberon and Titania make their entrance. The sprites’ movements are synced to the delicate ethereal chimes of a metallophone. This production is as aural as it is visual, with sound designer George Robertson creating accompaniment that is as spellbinding as the fairies themselves.

Artistic director Danielle Irvine directs scenes and settings that are visually and aurally discrete. That she does this while maintaining the fluidity of scene changes is a testament to her mastery.

Some of the more colourful characters in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are members of an in-play theatre troupe. As one of the players in this troupe, Bottom (Greg House) goes from overly ambitious would-be star to ignorant ass to humbled actor. His buffoonery, misreadings and misinterpretations had the theatre in stitches. The troupe’s scenes were so marvelously absurd that I could not wait to see their performance of “The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe” at the end of the play. Often coming across as more corny than comic in other productions, this play-within-a-play was a highlight of Perchance’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

As is the standard, the actors are assigned dual roles in this production. Sometimes creating confusion among audience members when costumes or characters are not easily distinguishable, no such confusion occurs in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Artistic director Danielle Irvine directs scenes and settings that are visually and aurally discrete. That she does this while maintaining the fluidity of scene changes is a testament to her mastery. A number of audience members commented that though they were unfamiliar with the play, they easily understood and enjoyed everything that was going on.

Returning spectators will recognize many cast members. Notably, Erin Mackey, as Helena, was spectacular. Her Helena is desperate, shameless, hopeless and hilarious. Contemptible though Demetrius’ (Mahalis Barry) behaviour may be, one cannot help but feel pity for him as he fails to escape her pursuit and adulation.

My favourite character in this play is Robin Goodfellow. Andrew Tremblett captures all of the spirit of this fairy: he is quick, clever, impish and nimble. Tremblett’s expression makes you believe you share a secret with him. His natural rapport with the audience and ability to appear on stage seemingly from nowhere make him an irresistibly charming Puck.

Evidently others in the theatre shared this opinion of Tremblett and the entire cast, as Puck’s closing monologue and request for applause was cut short by a well-deserved standing ovation from the full house.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” continues until Aug. 26. For more information, visit www.perchancetheatre.com or phone 1-709-771-2930.

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