Whether set in modern times or ancient Greece, performed on a beach or in a vineyard, as ballet, opera or movie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream always holds a special kind of magic.
Now Caravan Farm Theatre’s addition to the many interpretations of one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies adds its unique brand of magic to the rest.
The highly skilled professionals in this year’s promenade outdoor theatre production hail from Vancouver to Montreal. Their talents stretch from tumbling to singing to clowning to playing musical instrument—even to drawing a sympathetic tear, as with Juno Ruddell’s delicately played Helena.
There are two stages: the court of Duke Theseus (Haysam Kadri who doubles as Oberon) and the forest where most of the action takes place. The walk between them, past the concession that serves hot drinks during intermission, promotes circulation and confuses mosquitoes. A shuttle is available for those with walking difficulties.
Director Jennifer Brewin uses Caravan’s wooded areas to delightful effect, with lovers, fairies, tradesmen turned actors, a beautiful brown “colt” and puppet crows that caw and sometimes actually fly.
Both sets enhance the natural setting and the lighting and most costumes enhance the sets.
In the forest, four distracted lovers chase each other relentlessly “up and down, up and down,” calling each other’s names so frequently, so loudly and desperately that it would be impossible not to know which is Demetrius (Rylan Wilkie), which Lysander (Daryl King), which Hermia (Georgina Beaty) and which Helena (Juno Ruddell).
These four lovers and Bottom the Weaver, endearingly portrayed by Mike Wasko, are the only parts not duplicated by the actors.
The other tradesmen – and woman (Jennifer Paterson as Starveling) – double as earthy fairies who perform Titania’s bedtime ablutions with hilarious efficiency. Rough, tough Titania (Manon Beaudoin) doubles as Theseus’s bride Hippolyta—equally and amusingly rough and tough—to the extent that this might be a taming of a shrew rather than a dream.
Dawn Petten takes on the two traditionally male roles of Egeus and Puck. The script is cleverly kneaded to transform her from Hermia’s father to her mother and Mistress instead of Master of the Revels. Her edited role as mother seems to reduce the sexism of forcing her daughter to marry against her will.
Meanwhile, Puck can be mischievous in either gender and his/her common name, Robin (Robyn) Goodfellow, fits both sexes. Petten’s lusty energy keeps up the pace and her wit keeps up our spirits.
The script is also kneaded to change the cause of Titania’s and Oberon’s argument and thereby, the source of the play’s confusion and fun: the changeling boy becomes an exquisite brown “colt” (Victor).
One last individual mention: Josh Drebit’s performance as Snout, from the beginning when he and Quince (Michael Rinaldi) create a glorious routine out of bringing a box marked “FRAGILE” on stage, to the end when he portrays a wall at the wedding celebrations, is grounded, true and very funny.
But really, like most Caravan productions, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a rich ensemble affair, well worth at least one visit before Aug. 21. Bring friends, cushions, bug repellent, blankets and umbrellas, although there is a “wet evening” version … because the course of this summer’s weather “never did run smooth.”