Friday, May 20, 2011

Christopher Alden Takes on Naughty School Boys in Britten

(Photo: Alastair Muir)
Director Christopher Alden sets Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in a boy's school with mixed results: "Thus, Oberon is the pervy, bespectacled Latin master with a pair of underage catamites, one of whom is Puck – Jamie Manton, too old - who turns out to be Theseus when he grows up, emotionally damaged (are you paying attention? It gets worse) and who relives the whole story in flashback whilst staggering around the stage like a slow-motion zombie. Tytania is the boot-faced drab Music mistress, forever vigorously castrating pupils’ writing tools in a pencil sharpener – geddit!!??!! – when not smoking the odd cigarettes which do duty for the 'love-juice' and lounging louchely up against the school’s dreary walls. The four lovers are all schoolchildren in uniform. The mechanicals are the school’s handymen and, I think, Sports master. The staging is claustrophobically confined to a triangular stretch of schoolyard bounded by two giant two-storey walls of classroom windows and corridors (designed by Charles Edwards) inside which the 'Fairies' – the other pupils – line up on both levels in order to make their crucial contributions and from
(Photo: Alastair Muir)
which the staging never once deviates. Bottom is not transformed into an ass, or indeed anything else at all: he merely takes his shirt off and – like everyone else in this miserable, interminable drivel – staggers around in slo-mo a lot, provoking the others’ holy horror for no visually discernible reason. Twenty minutes minimum of “ass” jokes thereby go for absolutely nothing, as does any sense of magic, mystery, atmosphere or, God forbid, fun. The lovers’ weary collapse at the end of Act II is accompanied by the school burning down, which, given that they’re inside it at the time, makes their decision to go to sleep there rather puzzling. The Act III Pyramus and Thisby sequence – performance-proof, I have always found in the past – is rendered so coarsely and grossly as to be virtually unwatchable in its Carry On Crassness (Snug, drunk, pisses up a wall and gets a blow-job from 'Thisby') ." [Source]

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