Olivier Normand’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a successful tribute to one of the English playwright’s most popular comedies.
The play opens with a young and modern Lysander, who is lying on his bed in the 21st century, listening to music on his phone and reading Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Once he eventually closes his book and falls asleep, a myriad of strange characters enter his bedroom. A bewildered Lysander eventually joins in the madness and starts reading his lines from the play he had been reading before falling asleep.
This opening sequence, which is not part of the original play, clearly establishes the fact that the events of the story are part of the protagonist’s dreams. Because this introduction confirms that the story is not real, the audience can fully enjoy its delightful absurdity.
The dream itself revolves around a group of Athenians whose love affairs are tempered with by Puck, a fairy who gives them love potions while they are sleeping. The potions force the young characters to abandon their own lovers in order to chase after other people. This creates chaos among the relationships and leads to physical fights that had the audience laughing wholeheartedly.
Normand makes an impressive use of the décor to illustrate the dream-like quality of the play. Blue and yellow stage lights are used to create a sometimes eerie atmosphere. Large veils suspended over the stage are regularly lowered or raised, which adds an unnatural flow to the scenes. The veils often create a wall between the actors and the audience, which is reminiscent of the blurriness that often characterizes our own dreams.
One of the most impressive aspects of Normand’s adaptation is his use of talented acrobats to play the fairies. There is, at the back of the stage, a large trampoline on which these acrobats do several jumps and tricks throughout the play. This adds a circus-like dimension to the production, which not only convincingly reminds the audience that they are immersed in a person’s dream, but also makes the play extremely unique.
The play also presents the talent of the several actors. They are, for the most part, highly energetic young performers whose dynamism contributes to the playfulness of the story. Convincing in their roles, they certainly seem to have won the audience over with their strong stage presence.
Overall, Le songe d’une nuit d’été is a thoroughly enjoyable and successful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
Although some moments are definitely bizarre and unnerving, they deliberately represent the illogicality of dreams in general. And it is this absurdity that, once we embrace it, makes the play hilarious and entertaining.
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