After a five year hiatus, Singapore Repertory Theatre returns with their wildly popular programme “Shakespeare in the Park”, this time featuring one of the bard’s most iconic works— A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Boasting a unique viewing experience, audiences can expect to watch the performance in a picnic setting with the option of bringing food from home, or purchasing a picnic basket from onsite partner Intercontinental Singapore. A stellar cast starring Julie Wee, Ghafir Akbar, Daniel Jenkins and Krish Natarajan brings the romantic comedy to life with a contemporary twist for modern audiences, presenting a witty tale of romance and mischief.
Set amidst the cool evening winds of Fort Canning Park is a stage 20m wide, and 67m high: larger than life and a perfect match for the big personalities of the performers. In a more avant-garde take on Shakespeare’s work, the set is designed to mirror a post-industrial world inspired by Singapore’s oil refineries.
The play opens with Hermia, who is being forced by her father into a loveless marriage with Demetrius against the backdrop of steel pipes and construction sounds— a clever use of the set to enhance the coldness and cruelty of this scene. Under the night sky, audiences watch as Hermia makes secret plans with her lover Lysander to flee into the forest and run from the law. On the other side of things, Hermia’s friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, makes her own plans to meet him in the forest as well.
Avid fans of Shakespeare will know that the playwright has always been partial to nature scenes in his works, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. The play prides itself on stunning set transformations, and Singapore Repertory Theatre does a fantastic job of turning the oil refinery into a magical and mystical forest.
Audiences are mesmerised by the song and dance of fairies as the lights dim from harsh white into soft hues of red and purple— but perhaps most impressive of all are the waterworks that transforms the stage into a lake, reflecting the light rays and creating a completely different atmosphere for the rest of the play.
Under a canopy of spirituality, we are introduced to the fairy world in all its vibrancy. From set design to costumes, the stage becomes a pop of colour, setting the scene for a passionate dispute between the fairy King Oberon and Queen Titania.
As the latter commands her mischievous servant Puck to cast a love spell on Oberon as he sleeps, Puck finds himself embroiled in greater complications when he enchants the four human lovers that have wandered into the forest— only for there to be a massive mix-up. Thanks to Puck’s machinations, both Demetrius and Lysander are now in love with Helena, while Hermia mourns the sudden betrayal of her former lover Lysander.
Cleverly intertwined in this romantic mess, are snippets of comedy— found in the heart of a different set of players.
Comic relief can be found in the form of aspiring theatre troupe, as its members bumble around and fumble with their lines and distribution of roles. Nick Bottom, a fan favourite character, falls under Puck’s spell and re-emerges with the head of a donkey. In a strange turn of events, the fairy King Oberon falls in love with him, and Puck must now set out to fix all of his mistakes, in order to achieve the well-received happy ending.
While there is a lot to be commended about Singapore Repertory Theatre’s set design and unique twist on this old classic, high praise must also be given to their performers.
From the passionate delivery of their lines, to the moving emotions expressed on each actor’s face, the play is made bigger than the stage itself, reaching each and every heart in the audience. The performers also take their acting beyond the main stage, interacting with audience members at several points in the show.
Whether it be bringing out their water guns to douse us in a bit of fun and magic, or selecting an audience member to join in the performance, this show is truly one that makes a night worth remembering— as evident from the warm applause and cheers when the play reached its end.
And as Puck requests that the audiences think of this spectacular play as nothing more than a dream, it is certain that they will return home with a very vivid one. On picnic mats, under the stars with a cool night breeze and food to munch on as they savour the performance, this is truly as dreamy as it gets. Even as the saying goes, “the course of true love never did run smooth”, Singapore Repertory Theatre’s inspiring passion for performance is a fine example of true love for the arts, which smoothly sweeps us off our feet and leaves us wanting for more.
Singapore Repertory Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Date: 3 to 28 May 2023
Price: S$60 for Standard Picnic (Off-Peak), S$70 for Standard Picnic (Peak)
S$103 for Pavillion (Off-Peak), S$108 for Pavillion (Peak)
S$118 for Premium Picnic (Off-Peak), S$138 for Premium Picnic (Peak)
Location: Fort Canning Park (Near Carpark A)
For more information on show dates and ticket details, please visit their official page on SISTIC.
Visuals courtesy of Singapore Repertory Theatre.