Thursday, 13 October 2011

Rural Rites in Midsummer Night's Dream.

We had our second screening in the Early Modern Drama season this evening with Adrian Noble's RSC version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which mixes Jungian symbolism with images from Victorian and Edwardian children's literature to create a visually sumptuous and occasionally surreal child's eye view of the play. It's an urban vision beginning in a town house nursery before opening out into an imaginative forest where solid wooden front doors replace trees and electric light bulbs stand in for stars.

Surprisingly for all the modernising I found the production highlighted Shakespeare's descriptions of a rural England, lost deep inside his memory, where goblins and sprites are real and signs are taken for wonders. Behind the dandified fairy kingdom lies a simpler, less stylistic, truth where the benevolent sun and moon watch over us, keeping time and revealing change.

I don't know of a play that ends so beautifully. With the married couples safely tucked up in bed Puck, Oberon and Titania return with their train 'following darkness like a dream' to bless each corner of the house.

A new adventure is beginning, but we're not invited. As the fairies trip away to do their nocturnal deeds, Puck turns to us and politely begs our forgiveness and his own release. The mysteries of the night do not belong to us.

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