I’m reviewing these together for a couple reasons. They are both well-known Shakespeare, performed in an open theater, and have casts of different races.
The open theater of the Open Air Theater Regent’s Park was much more conducive to play watching than the open air theater at Shakespeare’s Globe or rather it just fit the play better. I had never seen Midsummer’s Night but I was really very impressed by this performance. The theater (pictured below) is designed like an amphitheater so even though I didn’t get great seats I still had a great view (no annoying posts like an inside theater often has). The interpretation of shakespearean language with a setting of a trailer park was quite interesting. I thought they used the space wonderfully though. The trailer lifts up into the air on an apparatus like a crane (or an actual crane. I couldn’t really tell you) to reveal a hole in the stage that is supposedly filled with water as the fairy queen is lifted dripping wet out of it and later one of the characters jumps in and emerges soaked. The second trailer opens to reveal a field of flowers. Using the stage by multiple scenes was really cool – meaning sometimes some characters would be sleeping as others moved among them as though the location were completely different. Made for great scene changes. The best part of all was the play within a play performed by a bunch of construction workers. One of which of course included Bottom (“that” sex scene was a bit disturbing though) but better than him (much better really) was the very large man who played the main female character in a very “tiny” voice. It was damn hilarious. Plus they did it on top of the first trailer.
I have a tough time reviewing Hamlet however. Despite knowing in my head intellectually that this performance was very well done I did not enjoy it simply for the fact that I do not enjoy the story. I simply have never understood the great amazing draw of such an insane plot (including the crazy insanity).
One positive thing about both these plays is that they had mixed race casts and never alluded to it. Actually in Hamlet there was a black daughter and white son of a white guy and never is it indicated that they have separate mothers. They simply ignore the genetic rarity of that possibility and move beyond race in that play. The same with Midsummer’s Night’s Queen the only mention of difference in ethnicity is that to the Indian boy which I believe was written into the play. But the Fairy King and Demetrius are both black clearly black men and never is there any indication by themselves or other characters as to anything of it. So I’m glad to see that what I posted about earlier regarding this has already been brought into consideration by others in the theater profession.