May 27, 2016
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a tale of loves lost and found, is a timeless Shakespeare tale which I fell in love with upon reading the script three weeks ago to prepare for this class. I was very much looking forward to seeing this script interpreted and presented in a professional and tasteful manner, especially since this production was made by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in the heart of London. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. Was the show entertaining? Parts of it, yes. Was it a good piece of theater? To speak my truth, no.
Of course, I held the Globe to a very high standard. I expected more of a traditional Shakespearean presentation of this script. I cannot blame the Globe for deciding to take their show in a different direction, for I am certainly not the end-all-be-all authority of theater. This adaptation was far more modern than Shakespeare’s 1595 script. In-and-of itself there is nothing wrong with bringing an old script into the 21st century, but this production felt as if they still had one foot in the 16th century. One of the great sins of theater is dabbling in too many good ideas at once and having each of these ingenuities fall slightly flat in effect. To modernize a script, I picture that all of the design elements that are built being modernized. The Globe utilized some modern costuming elements, however, many of the characters had traditional Elizabethan garb. The set, while minimalist as expected, did not blend well with the extravagance of the costumes. I did like the abstract design of the green gossamer “trunks” hanging from the ceiling to represent the forest, but other than this, I don’t have many positive things to say about the set. Gaudy bright orange flower fringe lined doorways upstage, significantly distracting from the simplicity of the rest of the set.
I was not particularly impressed with any of the actors on stage either. None of them stood out to me as having particular talents worthy of Shakespeare’s homeland. I felt like I was watching a regional theater production at best. There were many moments that I was made painfully aware that the actors were acting, a second great sin of the theater. “Look how funny I am” attitudes are not the way to impress an affluent audience. I thought there was excessive breaking of the fourth wall as well. While I believe that breaking the fourth wall is sometimes a necessary evil of theater, I do not think that it was done tastefully nor with correct comedic timing. The director also took the liberty of adding many pop culture references that distracted from the beauty of the original script, Americanizing the entire production. Too much interaction with the audience made me quite aware that The Globe Theater is somewhat of a tourist trap, and that Shakespeare’s original masterpieces are being downplayed for the sake of public popularity and revenue.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with the production as a whole, granted we did have relatively awful seats, and my view was obstructed half the time. How much of this half-hearted modernization is due to the influence of the new artistic director, I don’t know, but I would have preferred to see a traditional, more professional adaptation. I felt that this show made a mockery of the theater experience as a whole, and was entirely too reliant on obvious Shakespeare jokes. If you are an inexperienced theater goer, by all means, please go to The Globe for the exposure to the art; however, I found the production nearly unbearable in a more critical sense. I do not feel that it is worth the money or the three hour run time.