Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Paula Garfield
Reviewer: Cavelle Leigh
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of Shakespeare’s best loved works is here presented by Deafinitely Theatre, a production company led and performed predominately by deaf people. That’s not to say this performance is exclusively for the benefit of those hard of hearing. The company’s aim rather is to bring the hearing and deaf communities together, to collaborate creatively and enjoy theatre in unison.
The comedy centres around the forthcoming nuptials of Theseus (Ace Mahbaz) and Hippolyta (Nadia Nadarajah), originally a Duke and Queen respectively, but for this modern adaptation, powerhouse CEOs in the banking world. Hermia (Fifi Garfield) is betrothed to Demetrius but to the fury of her father Egeus loves Lysander (Adam Bassett). Egeus seeks help from Theseus in this matter who enforces that she must either face death or lifelong chastity should she refuse to marry Demetrius (played arrogantly by Lee Robertson). Helena (the hilarious Charlotte Arrowsmith) is besotted with Demetrius, who like Lysander is besotted with Hermia.
Meanwhile exasperated Quince (hearing actor Ralph Bogard) is putting on ‘a most lamentable comedy’ to be performed at the wedding, but unfortunately has only clowns, that’s middle management, to work with. A notablyfunny double act is idiotic Bottom (Nick Sands) and gangly Francis Flute (Jason Taylor).
The audience is then transported to a magical forest where the King and Queen of the fairies (again Mahbaz andNadarajah) are having a domestic over an Indian boy, or mortal as it were. Oberon, the King wants to use the boy for his own end, but Titania, the Queen shan’t allow him for she swore to the boy’s mother, her worshipper on her deathbed that she would protect and care for him. To overcome her objections, he asks Puck (the energetic Alim Jayda), something of a court jester to help him derive a magical juice from a plant which when applied to a person’s eyelids makes them, upon waking fall in love with the first creature they see. He imagines Titania will fall in love with an animal and so humiliated and ashamed, will surrender the boy to him. Cue a fast paced farce where everything that could go wrong seems to, as all three sub plots intertwine.
An open air performance within the unique and delightful Globe, it adopts an alluring visual vernacular, faithful to the traditional. The actors, did more than just animatedly sign. Clearly enjoying themselves, theyacted the parts brilliantly with gesticulated body language and facial expression. There were surtitled scene synopses in English, the sporadic inclusion of speech and song, and folkish musical interludes to be enjoyed by the hearing audience.
For many Shakespeare’s work alone can at times seem conceived in another language entirely, so to have this combined with BSL, British Sign Language, a language yet more foreign to most, one might be forgiven for being apprehensive as to how accessible or entertaining this particular performance might be. Fortunately though it worked a dream, for both the hearing and the deaf, who as demonstrated, no longer need to be restricted to just mime and physical theatre. A ridiculous, riotous farce.
Runs until 7th June