The original idea was to see King Lear. But instead we were drawn to the controversial Stratford production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Would we hate it–like the Toronto Star critic did? Or would we love it–like the Globe and Mail critic did?
Either way, it would certainly be cheerier than King Lear. (Which we may still see, in the fall. Although Stratford plays aren’t exactly cheap, are they?)
This production of Midsummer’s Night begins with a same-sex, mixed-race wedding, then presents the familiar Shakespeare play with the premise that Lysander is a woman, and hence not the suitor Hermia’s father prefers. I thought this was a rather effective retelling in our time, and interestingly, it was one thing that both Star and Globe critics appreciated as well.
It’s everything else that also gets thrown into this version of the play that the critics didn’t agree on. For example, that isn’t the only gender switching that goes on: most notable of the others is that the Fairy Queen is played by a gent, and a hairy one at that. And the play seems to be set (somewhat) in modern times, featuring modern pop music (most effectively, “Bizarre Love Triangle”) and a scene where the characters gather around a cell phone to look up the phases of the moon (though the answer is ultimately found in a paper almanac). And there is a whole lot of slapstick, physical humor: cake fights, slipping into water, almost-sex in a tent.
It’s certainly a memorable version of Midsummer Night’s Dream. And a funny one–especially the second half. I don’t know that I loved it quite as much as the Globe critic, but I most certainly didn’t hate it as much the Star one. Though if I have to pick between love it or hate it, as they say, then I’m going with love.
The rest of our Stratford day was quite nice. We discovered an olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop that offered tastings of all their wares, and (for this type of thing) had quite reasonable prices. We restricted ourselves to a Chilean olive oil–almost all their olive oils were from the southern hemisphere, new to us as an olive oil source—an Italian olive oil (the one exception), and aged balsmic.
Then we had lunch at La Taverna, where I went all seafood: We shared raw oysters (absolutely delicious, though small, ones from New Brunswick) and cooked mussels and clams, served in a very flavorful tomato smoked pork sauce. I then had a seafood risotto with lobster, scallop, and shrimp, while Jean went for the gnocchi.
“If music be the food of love, play on.” [Shakespeare–though not from Midsummer Night’s Dream]