As fires blazed in the distance, The Kelowna Shakespeare Theatre Society breathed fresh life into A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The evening was set in the vineyard of Spearhead winery, as actors flawlessly switched between scenes by fading into the rows of vines.
The comedy was written in 1594, portraying the adventures of four young lovers and a few unlikely amateur actors when mischievous fairies meddle in their love lives in an enchanted forest in mythical Athens.
Puck, a mischievous satyr played by Justin Gaudio, conspires with Oberon, King of the Fairies, to play a trick with a love charm on his beloved Queen, Titania and Puck gets carried away and also uses the charm on the four young lovers, causing mayhem.
The actors effortlessly let Shakespeare’s Old English flow from their tongues, and the audience hangs on every word spilled.
Janet Anderson, returns as Peter Quince, playing a character of the opposite gender naturally, which hearkens to the early Shakespearean plays where women were forbidden from acting on stage, and a few would cross dress to pursue their passion. Anderson’s robust voice as she orders the feeble footed peasants through their play rehearsal for play-within-the-play “Pyramus and Thisbe” brings a roar of laughter to the crowd.
As King and Queen of the fairies Oberon, played by Matt Brown, and Titania, played by Sarah Kit Goddard, enter the stage, their power is tangible. The fairies cling to Titania’s every movement and sway to the rhythm of her voice.
As Shakespeare’s dark humour comes to life, Lysander, portrayed by Kevin Morrison, and Demetrius, played by Connor Knapp, both under Oberon’s charm fall in love with Helena, played by breakout actress, Allyce Kranabetter.
Kranabetter shouts her lines and love for Demetrius perfectly between breaths as she chases him around the stage. She effortlessly modernizes the 16th Century script with youthful mannerisms and a silver tongue when the tables are turned and he is the one chasing her in what she believes is nothing more than a sick joke.
When Titania awakes, her charmed eyes land upon Nick Bottom, a weaver that Puck enchanted with a donkey’s head. She immediately throws herself against him, professing her love and stroking his long ears. The two become unlikely lovers until Oberon feels the joke is over and all must be restored.
As Janet Anderson is widely accepted as a man by the audience, it is when Curtis Walz who plays Francis Flute, a man, is cast as for Thisbe, in “Pyramus and Thisbe” a female role. The play-within-the-play is tongue and cheek and features one actor as a wall where Pyramus and Thisbe speak through a crack that is the actors hand.
The high pitched voice and exaggerated “feminine” movements struck a chord. He mockingly portrays Thisbe, a woman and the crowd howls every time he juts his hip out, or flips his bleach blonde wig. What does this say about the acceptance in Kelowna of people living outside traditional gender roles, transgender people, and gender that is expressed across a broad spectrum and only now have most of these people been able to express themselves freely?
In Shakespearean times, men played women on stage because they were not allowed on stage. Although the character was meant to be portrayed as humorous there is a fine line between humour and insult.
Tickets are available online for the next set of shows from July 25 to 28 at Spearhead Winery in East Kelowna.
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