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SCENE IT: Bottom's Dream, a MIDSUMMER delight

Barbara Loots


The current staging of Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM reveals a crisp take on the two overlapping stories at the heart of this enchanted tale: on the one side, mischievous spirits interfere in the ways of lovers, and on the other, a troupe of well-intentioned amateur thespians pursues their dream of royal recital with much ambition and little talent. The scene is thus set for great entertainment with this year’s Maynardville offering.

Mark Elderkin’s performance as the ridiculously overconfident Nick Bottom, the weaver, and eventual ass, is a masterclass. As soon as he takes to the stage he has the audience in the palm of his hand, with laughter and giggles and fun galore following his every utterance. So impressive is his performance, I have taken to referring to this show as Bottom’s Dream, in echo of the character, when telling people to buy tickets to go appreciate his theatrical shenanigans. Elderkin is the undisputed star of the show, and the curtain call, as well as the audience reaction, confirms this to be true.

A further layer of delight is added by the theatrical troupe, the Mechanicals, of which Bottom holds membership. Together they weave into the story a light-heartedness that is delivered with great comedic timing and style that sees the audience erupt with squeals of laughter. Bottom's cohorts, brought together by their shared pursuit of the dream of performing for the King on his wedding day, is Tankiso Mamabolo (Mistress Quince, the carpenter), Tailyn Ramsamy (Francis Flute, the bellows-mender), Roland du Preez (Robin Straveling, the tailor), Dean Rickey Goldblum (Tom Snout, the tinker), and Bobby Stuurman (Snug, the joiner). Bravo to them all. Applause is well-deserved at every twist and turn, whether the performance be that of Wall, Lion or even Moon in between. As a collective, they produce unadulterated fun. Sans Bottom, the cast for the troupe is also that of the fairies of Titania, and they take on those roles with similar fanfare.

Roberto Kyle, who steps into the role of the Queen of the Fairies (as the production sees a gender swap between in roles of Titania and Oberon (Chi Mhende)), also delivers a stand-out performance. The fierceness with which he takes on the character is captivating. His performance as Titania bounces brilliantly off that of Elderkin as the ass-headed Bottom. The pair together is a delight to behold.

Directed by Geoffrey Hyland, this Midsummer is characterised by high energy when it comes to Puck (Sophie Jones) and high levels of teenage angst when it comes to the lovers Lysander (Aidan Scott), Hermia (Nomfundo Selepe), Demetrius (Jock Kleynhans) and Helena (Lisa Tredoux). It is obvious that Jones is thoroughly enjoying stepping into the hooves of Puck; a performance dream come true for her. Puck’s interaction with the lovers (the result of Oberon’s plan unravelling) starts at the highest decibel and stays there, which gives the play little room to manoeuvre as far as nuance is concerned. This seems to be the result of the choices made in cutting the script down to under two hours. I understand the need to shorten the play, as the Bard is well-known for his verbosity, however, it is the choice of cuts that confounds: it appears as if the bits of text left on the edit floor removes the opportunity for exploration of the depth of character, reducing much of it to hormones run amuck. Nevertheless, the abridged MIDSUMMER does hit the notes as far as displaying mischief, beauty, smitten youthful dreams and desire (with the added touch of scantily clothed sexy bodies), the combination of which invites the audience to sit back and just watch them run.

The set is simplistic and fit for performance but also easy on the eyes. The fairies have the added allure of performing original songs by Wessel Odendaal, which they deliver amidst a flurry of bubbles that aim to accentuate the magic of it all while reflecting the colourful light display (as designed by Oliver Hauser).

You have until 23 February 2023 to see A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM as part of the VR Theatrical presented Maynardville Open-Air Festival, with tickets available online through Quicket.


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