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Donkey1

—by Bill Watkins 7/15/2019

***

I appreciate interpretation.

We all interpret, digest, form-fit everything we see into bite size pieces and in a way that makes sense or is fun for us.  William Shakespeare’s work has been interpreted and changed to fit opinions, palates and fill theaters for hundreds of years, and God bless all who give entertainment on stage a go!

But for me, sadly, Dominic Hill’s new presentation of Shakespeare’s hilarious A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre failed to be hilarious despite its very woke changes to format.  Having seen the play at the beautiful Open Air Theatre in 1994 created a high bar very difficult to reach or surpass, and in the end: I walked out of the 2019 production last Tuesday night two-thirds in, hopeful to find more laughs at my youth hostel before bed.

Nick Bottom is a man.  Played as a man, the donkey he becomes man-like and mannish, with a man’s voice, and supposed even to be a heterosexual man when Titania the fairy queen doth make him nervous by her overt attentions in Act III.  His nerves made me laugh in 1994, so much so my stomach began to hurt!  But Dominic Hill’s cast of professionals failed to tickle me thus—not because they were unprofessional or untalented, but because the needed heterosexual tension was missing from the woman-on-woman Titania/Bottom scenes in his version, as he chose a woman for the role of Nick Bottom.

Very Woke and #MeToo of Dominic, but not very funny, in this traveler’s opinion.  I’ll give it even Cute, but I did not pay money to see a show my last night in London before turning back to stolen Native American land in the States to smile… I paid to laugh!!

Kieran Hill’s Theseus/Oberon was engaging, the theatre setting as beautiful and enchanting as ever, and Susan Wokoma’s Bottom was funny enough in initial scenes, but failed to create for me the heterosexual tension needed to be funny with Titania in that magical, Shakespeare-created forest of wonder and mischief.

Myra McFadyen’s Puck was odd and robotic, but could have been overcome with a straighter interpretation of a funny as-written play.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—even if your change is “woke and with it!!!”

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