Midsummer Night’s Dream, a hilarious 400 years old comic play

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LOVE, magic, dreams, folly and gender battles: These are the themes in William Shakespeare’s, aka the Bard of Avon, famous comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream showcased on Tuesday at the Standard Theatre, at the Harare International Festival of the Arts.

by CECELIA KAMuPUTA

A cast of local, young and talented Zimbabwean actors put the over 400 years old comic play, initially set in Athens Greece (and the fairies’ forest), into a Zimbabwean context by replacing Elizabethan garb with Zimbabwean clothing and having the play set in Harare, Zimbabwe (and the fairies’ bush).

Directed by Julia Wharton, the comedy had its fair share of slapstick humour, seeing a man with a donkey’s head wandering around the stage and the mechanicals being Shakespeare’s archetypes of the “jester, clown or fool” characters, depended upon for jests and tomfoolery in the play.

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” comments Lysander, played by Manuel Antonio, bringing out A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s most important theme, love’s difficulty or love out of balance. This theme is shown through the motif of romantic situations out of balance, with inconsistencies getting in the way of harmonious relationships.

This comes out in the unbalanced love among the four young Hararean lovers, Hermia (Noceba Mujati) loving Lysander, Lysander loving Hermia; Helena (Ruvarashe Mukenyora) doting on Demetrius (Tawanda Mavengano) who does not return the love, but falls for Hermia instead.

It also comes out when Titania (Sheena Madzima), the Queen of the Fairies, falls in love with one of the Mechanicals, Bottom (Taumutswa Mahari), who has a donkey’s head, love between a mere mortal and an immortal fairy; love between a foolish bumbling commoner lacking finesse and a beautiful, enchanting gentle Fairy Queen who had fairies to wait upon her and the King of Fairies Oberon (Comfort Myambo) who wanted her.

By literalising Lysander’s well-known quote that “the course of true love never did run smooth”, Shakespeare proposes that true love really is an impediment-ridden course, with twists and turns and that the pursuit of this love has the ability to make people act foolish and illogical.

Choreographed by the popular Tumbuka, the play ran for two hours.