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As Marina is 7 years old, it seemed like a good time to introduce her to Shakespeare. And what better way than a matinee in The Swan Theatre at Stratford of that most child-friendly of The Bard’s works, A Midsummer Night’s Dream? So, the tickets were booked months ago.
Unfortunately, I read the press reviews last week. “A darkly sexual re-telling”, one said. What? When I’ve seen it, it’s all fairies and rustic lovers. The craziest I’ve seen is at Ludlow Castle when punk fairies scaled the battlements of the ruined castle. To make it worse, the reviews wrote that it was performed in fifteen Indian languages.
So it was with some grave trepidation that we filed in to the theatre, on the hottest day of the year, expecting to beat a hasty retreat in the interval.
Instead, it was fantastic. I have never seen any piece of theatre so visually arresting, so acrobatic or so musical. The stage was red soil from Rajasthan.The forest was bamboo and paper. Indian dance, costume and some jaw-dropping visual set pieces had Marina, my mum and me spellbound. Ajay Kumar, who played Puck, Joy Farnades (Bottom) , Shanaya Rafaat (Helena) and Archana Ramaswamy (Tatiana/ Hippolyta) were first amongst equals in a splendid cast.
I enjoyed this production (by Dash Arts and the British Council) despite of the polyglottal action, rather than because of it (I found myself reaching for the programme too often to remind myself of what’s happening, when I really wanted to be simply feasting my eyes on the action). But that’s my only criticism, and my enthusiasm was shared by the rest of the full house; the cast received a long standing ovation (the first I’ve ever seen at The Swan) and were called repeatedly back on stage.
Go see it!