After a five-year hiatus, SRT’s Shakespeare in the Park returns this year with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This lighthearted romantic comedy’s themes of love and the power of the imagination – with magical and fantastical elements – provide a sense of escapism and enchantment that offers a perfect escape from the stresses of everyday life.
Set in Fort Canning Park, the best part is that you can enjoy a picnic under the night sky while watching the story unfold.
As the title suggests, the play is set in one Midsummer Night: the Fairy King Oberon and Queen Titania are at odds, four young lovers flee to the forest to elope, and a band of tradesmen rehearse a play. Amidst the chaos, the mischievous Puck employs his magic to wreak havoc and ensure that true love faces numerous obstacles. Puck’s spells cause the lovers to switch their affections, as one of the tradesmen undergoes a magical transformation.
This is one of Shakespeare ’s most entertaining plays and it’s also one of the easiest to understand. It explores universal themes such as love and jealousy, and it’s filled with humour and witty dialogue, making it easy for beginners to follow and understand the story.
Setting the stage
While Midsummer Night’s Dream is essentially set in an enchanted world about fairies and forests in Athens, this year’s adaptation of one of the bard’s most endearing plays is actually set in an industrial kingdom aptly named “Athenia”.
The play’s division between reality and the dream world was conceived by director Guy Unsworth and set designer Richard Kent to have a more abstract approach. The presence of modern elements such as towering chimneys, ladders, steel gangplanks, and water pipes not only places the play in a contemporary setting, but also emphasises the tension that exists between human advancement and the natural world.
The production’s vivid costumes are a noteworthy aspect, used to differentiate the mundane reality from the captivating fairy realm. In contrast to the subdued tones of the human world, the fairy costumes are richly colourful. What makes it even more intriguing is the portrayal of the fairies as eco-conscious creatures who repurpose materials for their clothing. Consequently, the costumes are an eclectic combination of various hues and textures, producing an engaging contrast with the austere colours of Athenia.
One of the standouts was Oberon’s costume – as king of the fairies, he’s often portrayed with wings and a cloak of some kind. But in this incarnation, the overall theme is “trashion” and his outfit with a fishing net as an overskirt is a quirky manifestation of trashy-chic.
One of the most memorable scenes was when the stage was literally set to flood, thanks to the gushing of the water pipes set off by Puck.
This set the backdrop for a memorable dance routine in the beginning of Act 2. It’s a brilliant choreography of colour and water, when the fairies – in all their technicolour costumes and rubber Wellies – stomped on the flooded stage to composer Mervin Wong’s upbeat soundtrack.
Unfortunately, during Saturday’s performance, the audience was unable to see the play beyond the beginning of Act 2, just as Puck was about to unleash the love potion that drives the chaos of the story. Instead of witnessing the love potion being applied to Titania and Lysander, the audience received an unexpected shower from the sky.
After about 20 minutes of unabated rain, the play was called off and ticket holders were given the option to return to see the play on another day.
With picnics under the night sky cut short, it truly felt like the audience was treated to a night of mischief. It’s as Lysander said: “The course of true love never did run smooth…”
SRT’s cast members for this year’s Shakespeare in the Park include the bickering fairy royalty, Julie Wee (Titania) and Ghafir Akbaar (Oberon), alongside the two pairs of lovers, Natalie Yeap (Hermia) and Timothy Wan (Lysander) together with Vanessa Kee (Helena) and Nicholas Chan (Demetrius). Daniel Jenkins (Bottom) plays the role of the unfortunate tradesman. Midsummer Night’s Dream is directed by award-winning director, Guy Unsworth who spins his magic on this stellar production, together with set designer Richard Kent.
Shakespeare in the Park will continue its run until 28 May (7.30pm) at Fort Canning Park. Tickets are available here, and seating is divided into 3 categories:
Standard Shows: Tue, Wed, Thu & Sun: Premium Picnic: S$118; Pavilion: S$103; Picnic: S$60
Peak Shows: Fri & Sat: Premium Picnic: S$138; Pavilion: S$108; Picnic: S$70