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MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (article first published : 2001-06-10)

FNB Vita and the University of Natal (Durban) drama and performance studies department can be justly proud of the recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At a time when the education authorities consider Shakespeare irrelevant for South African schools, this production placed one of the Bard’s most delicious comedies fairly and squarely in a contemporary context. Its success was proved by the excellent response from school pupils .

With its inclusion of kwaito, Rasta locks, whiffs of mpephe, pop numbers with dippy singers wearing bouncing antennae, tree houses and swinging beds, it was a glorious froth of fun and nonsense from start to finish. Directors Mervyn McMurtry and Tamar Meskin defiantly proved that Shakespeare can be fun and accessible to all.

Dominic Fundam, complete with cell-phone and long leather coat, swings out Tarzan-style from his tree-house to banter with Lucy Wallace as his blonde bombshell Fairy Queen Titania.

Stealing the show completely, Welile Tembe makes a unique and delightful Puck. Hip and sassy, she seemed to be everywhere, complete with lion’s tail and occasionally throwing in apt pithy remarks in Zulu.

The lovers: Priya Reddy (Hermia), Musa Hlatshwayo (Demetrius), Clare Cassidy (Helena) and Anton Schäfer (Lysander) acquitted themselves well although their final scene involved much physical action and bordered on the tedious.

For those appearing as The Mechanicals (the players) in ”The Dream”, the sky is invariably the limit in terms of knockabout comedy and mild lunacy. Bonding with a Three Musketeers-type allegiance code – “All for one and one for all” – this group was permitted just as much over-the-top fun.

Lloyd O’Connor as Peter Quince was suitably long-suffering and camp while Brian Wallace (Flute), Sikhumbuzo Mbutho (Snout) and Simon Norton (Starveling) produced the right amount of mild hysteria.

Verne Munsamy (Snug) – complete with hard hat and dungarees and a penchant for writing things he has to remember on his forearm - has a fine sense of comedy and is definitely a talent to watch. Tyron Akal was excellent as Nick Bottom, and hilariously asinine when transformed. Special mention must be made of the neatly-designed sling bag that became his asses’ ears.

Brandon Bunyan created good atmospheric lighting and a nice touch to the music accompaniment was the introduction of a couple of didgeridoos.

It’s a pity this production could not have had a longer run. Perhaps FNB Vita might be persuaded to bring it back for a return season. Let’s hope so.




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