A Midsummer Night’s Dream (16/7/16)

cjcazmsvaaawrss.jpgThe first thing I have to say is that when this play was first announced, I was really really surprised and excited, for two reasons:

The first reason is that my degree at University was English Literature, and throughout that and having previously studied a lot during school, I really fell in love with Shakespeare’s plays. My University dissertation was also written about Shakespeare, and this play was one of the ones I referred to a lot. This was however, my first time ever seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.

The second reason is that back when I went to Izaki’s birthday event at the end of January, my gift to him was a book about the UK which I’d added various notes to. There was a page about Shakespeare and the Globe Theater, and one of my notes had been me hoping that maybe one day he could perform in one. Although I’m in no doubt that it was pure coincidence that this happened not long afterwards, it still still felt like my dream had come true.

I’m not going to go over the plot of the play since there are about a thousand places you can probably find something like that, so let’s start by talking about the reason I was there. As soon as this play was announced, I just knew that Izaki was going to be playing Puck. There is no role in that play more suited to him than that, and he proved that on stage. Izaki has an unlimitless amount of energy and agility that meant he made running, jumping and hopping around the stage and theater look easy. He spoke to members of the audience and was able to flawelessly adlib in character based on their answers. And when he was on stage, even when the scene wasn’t his, he was often there somewhere watching. I tried not to let him distract me when he wasn’t the focus of the scene too much because I really wanted to enjoy the play as a whole, but it was really hard because his movements and facial expressions when he was watching everything unravel were gold.

The fun thing about this production was that it was an all-male cast, which not only makes it more authentic to how they were performed back in Shakespeare’s day, it also means we get to see gorgeous boys dressed as pretty girls. Leaving out Amo Shogo who is so girly he may as well be a girl, the other three also gave amazing performances. Although they all did well, I have to say that my surprise favourite was Shiozawa Hidemasa (Titania) who clearly learned how to be 100% fabulous from being Mizuki Hajime all those years ago and had the voice and movements down to a fine art. The outfit was amazing and everything he did in character was so sexy and seductive that I had a hard time believing he wasn’t female. He really made me like the character, the “strongest” female role in the play, despite that her main purpose involved her being punished by her husband for not really doing much wrong. Then there were the scenes with her and Bottom when he had the donkey’s head, which honestly (when you think about how much they implied they did in the play) is kind of disgusting but this is a comedy and the pair of them managed to make it that way, so it was cringeworthy but you couldn’t help but laugh. I’ll go back to this topic again in a moment, but…

Ikkei looked beautiful but his Hermia was a little bit whiny and annoying at times and as much as he tried, I could hear the Ikkei in his voice whenever the character was wound up. I think it’s possibly because last time I saw Ikkei he also played a super flaily annoying character and so I could just hear that same voice. Sometimes I couldn’t get past that enough to see his character as female. That’s not to say that I had anything against his acting in general. Hermia is probably the biggest role out of the female characters, has a lot of stage time and not only that, a lot of stage time alone, and so it’s not an easy role to play. I really like the scene where she wakes up in the forest and Lysander has gone and left her alone. The whining and the dashing from one side of the stage to the other was pretty amazing.

Seiya however, played a much calmer Helena. His voice in character was very soft,  although normally I’d say he was the least girly of the two of them as far as his looks go, I far preferred his portrayal of a girl than Ikkei’s. I’d have to read the play again to see if there really was that big a difference in the personalities of the two (it’s been a while), but let’s just say that I spent most of the time wanting to strangle Hermia, while I could deal with Helena quite fine. I loved her fierceness when the two guys who had previously shown very little interest were suddenly fighting over her.

The two main male characters made me laugh at times they probably shouldn’t, but seeing these two grown hot headed guys chasing around after girls was forever amusing. The later scene where the two have this huge argument over who loves Helena the most (while she is there and mad at both of them because she thinks they’re mocking her) and even though I know that they never actually get to do anything about I was kind of willing them to just shut up and fight it out. I mean this is a comedy and they’re basically two stereotypical idiotic big-headed good-looking guys who think they’re awesome because they have girls chasing after them. If this were real life they would be really annoying but it was entertaining to watch on stage, and both Shohei and Yamauchi Keisuke were great.

And then there was Bottom (I said I’d get back to that). So, his actor was perfect as the third big-headed idiot in the cast and watching him suddenly lose all his comrades (who had a whole theater to run away from him) when he suddenly had a donkey’s head when he had no idea was played out so well by everyone involved to the point where I actually felt super bad for him standing there on stage all alone with a freaky head wondering why he’d suddenly been dramatically abandoned. I can’t help but think he deserved it, but you know you have a good actor on your hands when they can make you feel bad for them about something like that.

The stage set up was very simple, but well put together. There was a main platform set on top of the stage which many of the characters would stand on, while using the space around the outside as well. This platform was transformed with the use of a large red silk sheet which was mostly used during scenes with Titania later in the play. They also had a large log which served several different purposes, and chairs which were set up around the edges of the stage and which characters would often sit in to remain on stage when they were not the focus of the scene. The rest of the theater was used mainly for Puck when he was dashing around, and for the group of players who spent many of their scenes in the centre walkway and down the aisles (I had one of them growl in my face when he was practicing being a lion, which was somewhat intimidating).

I found the way they portrayed the potions used in the story very creative. They used string in red (for the love potion) and white (for the reverse) which made it a lot more visual on stage. The red string in particular was super long and there was one point where Puck took one end and headed out into the theater, pulling it tight and the letting it go and watching it fly over the audience’s heads and back onto the stage. I’m amazed it didn’t hit anyone but I’m sure he practiced that a lot.

Negative things? In the beginning all of the ensamble guys were just topless and circling the stage for the entire first scene and I thought it was really distracting and kind of gross. I just wanted to watch and listen what was actually going on but all I could hear was these guys keep sliding their feet across the stage and wondering in my head how they weren’t ready to pass out from exhaustion. I almost sighed with relief when they finally left.  There was also one of the later scenes where they were all on the raised part of the stage and they were just constantly reaching out to all the characters and staring at them and it was really creepy. I’m sure it added to the atmosphere or whatever of them being in the forest but I wanted them to go away. I have nothing against them having an ensamble on there but they could have been a little less weird.

Overall though, the combination of me liking Shakespeare and also being able to see actors I knew and liked playing the characters made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I was right when I had thought a lot of the language used would be difficult to understand (I’m not sure how it compares with the difficulty of reading the play in English) but knowing the story meant that it really didn’t matter. I wish I had been able to see it again, but I was happy to have been able to see it at least once. I forgot if we’re getting a DVD of this, but I highly recommend it if we do!

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