AM At The Movies: Julie Taymor’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Above: Give Shakespeare a chance with Julie Taymor's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Whether you’re into Shakespeare, or can never seem to follow it unless you have a well-worn copy of the corresponding Cole’s Notes to flip through, Julie Taymor’s interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be visually interesting enough to keep your attention.

Filmed at Brooklyn’s Theatre for a New Audience during a live performance, the play is meant to be a movie, but incorporates the audience in a way that celebrates the fact that it was meant to be a stage play. Even though there is magic, fairies, and a whimsical feel to the production, they are able to portray everything as a live action play, rather than a movie that is filmed with the magic added via CGI after the fact.

Julie Taymor was the first ever woman to win a Tony Award for directing a musical for her work on the stage musical, The Lion King . She also directed the Broadway musical, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. If you’ve seen The Lion King, you’ll recognize some of the same strategies she used to portray animals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

While the four young star-crossed lovers, Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius are supposed to be the focus, it’s really Puck (played by Kathryn Hunter) that steals the show. He’s the mischievous sprite who accidentally gives Lysander the love potion he was supposed to give Demetrius, causing Lysander to fall in love with the wrong person (Helena instead of Hermia). He also helps Oberon (David Harewood) play a trick on his wife, Titania (Tine Benko), which causes her to become infatuated with a man with a horse’s head.

The costumes and makeup were another highlight, and the use of different stage levels in the theatre helped make the setting seem really intimate. Throughout the performance, groups of child fairies could be seen sitting in the rafters directly above the audience, and sometimes you could see Puck up there too, watching over the chaos he’d helped create.

While Shakespeare might not be for everyone, there’s still a lot to like about this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you’re a fan of live theatre, you won’t be disappointed by how much Taymor was able to do on such a small stage.

Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream screens in selected Cineplex theatres across Canada on June 20 and 24, 2015 as part of Cineplex Entertainment Front Row Centre Events.

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