A Midsummer Night's Dream

Muritai School Yard, Eastbourne, Wellington

27/02/2007 - 03/03/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

by William Shakespeare
directed by Florence McFarlane

A Bard in the Yard presentation by Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe

A fine cast has been assembled with people mastering their lines from the deep south to Hawaii.

The lovers are well past their first flush of youth but with age comes the return to teenage angst, and love (with the ability to fall into it but the inability to act on it) never dies.

It is fitting therefore that this version of Shakespeare’s popular comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in the Athens Retirement Home where feelings are close to the surface and the attachments formed between residents adds to the woes of the staff and visiting professionals.

The Occupational Therapist Miss Titania battles against the seemingly insurmountable odds of drugs, disability and desperation to keep things on an even keel.

Added to this is the stress on the day-to-day staff who, while having few skills, are called upon to entertain their charges on top of caring for their basic needs.

Dr Oberon has some drugs he is anxious to try out and he is aided and abetted in this by his sidekick Puck who is up for anything any time.  Do-gooders come in to entertain in various ways and with various levels of skill.

Be prepared to laugh, cry, dance, sing along, or just watch and enjoy.

Theatre ,

2 hours

Sheer delight

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Mar 2007

The two plays of Shakespeare that are most associated with youth are Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and so to have the latter set in a rest home where the majority of the characters are in their dotage, as they are in Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupes current Bard-In-The-Yard production seems a most unusual approach.  Yet surprisingly this works exceptionally well showing that elderly folk regressing into second child hood can be as fanciful and romantic as adolescents. 

In this instance Theseus (David Geldhill), the owner of the Athena Villas Retirement Centre, is about to be betrothed to the Head Nurse Hippolyta (Kat Angus).  However before the nuptials can begin and much to the annoyance of Egeus, the chief Social Worker (Sandra Gillespie) four of the residence elope to the native bush behind the rest home. First Hermia (Sue Jones) trots off in her zimmer frame with Lysander (Jerry Duckor) on his walking stick in hot pursuit. Then Demetrius (Peter Baldock), a little more sprightly, chases after these two with Helena (Fran Baldock), having done her early morning palates, chasing him. 

At the same time a group of workmen are putting together a play for Theseus’s wedding – Pyramus And Thisbe – while nearby Dr Oberon (Will Clannachan) is dispensing happy pills to his young intern Puck (Theo Nettleton) as a way of persuading him to help the doctor in his advances on the Occupational Therapist Titania (Alex Cooper). 

From here the play follows very much Shakespeare’s original, although in a rather pared down version, with lots of mayhem and confusion until all the lovers are finally reconciled and attend the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta and the entertaining but highly exaggerated performances of the workers play. 

By having the central characters as geriatrics director Florence McFarlane has given the play a highly entertaining but very plausible twist, the many lines that have a youthful ring, coming across in this production as not only real but very funny.  The four actors in the roles of the lovers vying for each others affections are a sheer delight as they clamber over their Zimmer frames trying to quell their ardour. 

Other performances of note are that of Theo Nettleton as a very energetic Puck, his sinewy elastic body never still for a minute as he bounds about the stage and John Marwick’s consummate performance as Bottom, eloquently mastering Shakespeare’s language to make this unusual rendition  of one of the Bard’s most popular and famous plays highly entertaining.


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The old make it new again

Review by John Smythe 01st Mar 2007

While it is theatreview policy not to review amateur productions, because those practitioners are simply not accountable in the same way as professionals, we have made exceptions with some Fringe productions. A case in point was the very successful Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe production of Bruce Mason’s Blood of the Lamb, which they revived for Fringe 06 and brought into town (from Eastbourne).

The Troupe’s contribution to this year’s Fringe is a ‘Bard in the Yard’ show, played in the grounds of their local Muritai School. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Florence McFarlane, is set in Athena Village, a retirement home.

It works surprisingly well, with clues to the interpretation offered in the programme. Sir Jasper Theseus owns the home, his fiancée is Head Nurse Hippolyta and Ms Egeus, from Social Welfare, regards the ‘inmates’ as her possessions.

Constrained thus, there is a poignant perversity in the love quadrangle that gets the Athenian geriatrics – Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius – into such trouble. Lines like "This spotted inconstant man", "wither away" and "My legs can keep no pace with my desires" make perfect sense in this context.

Dr Oberon rewards his gopher Puck with pills, occupational therapist Titania Dogood moonlights as a youth group leader and the kids who attend on her are into dress-ups. As for the ‘rude mechanicals’ they are tradespeople who work in the home – foreman, plumber, kitchen hand, joiner, electrician – and the egocentric weaving instructor.

The only changes to the text are very minor: "Boss" for "Duke", the aforementioned trades and the odd gender change. Rugs and dressing gowns are available for the audience, nurses do a ‘medication round’ before the play proper starts, the second half begins with a singalong and it still comes in at 2 hours 15 minutes, including a well catered interval.

What could have been an intrusive gimmick serves to elucidate the play anew. Despite the usual range of performing skills one expects from an amateur group – from near professional confidence to tentative and groping for lines – the troupe together delivers the play with intelligence, clarity and a great sense of fun.

I’m very glad I saw it.
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