June 6, 2008
by Richard Ouzounian
If you had set out to find a show that would totally encapsulate the spirit of Luminato, you couldn't have found a better one than A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens tonight at the Canon Theatre and which I saw during its recent run in San Francisco.
It's a work of profound worldwide artistic significance, awakening us to new styles, beliefs and voices but, at the same time, it's a totally accessible, joyous piece of theatre for everyone. In other words, everything that Luminato stands for.
Famed British director Tim Supple, haunted by his attraction to India and the theatre done there, went off on a British government grant to create a play. He found that India matched up perfectly with a play he always had wanted to do: A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Supple worked in a unique way, utilizing the country he was in rather than exploiting it. The result was a production like none you've ever seen.
Seven Indian dialects are spoken onstage and the theatrical magic that ensues is like nothing you have ever encountered.
Years from now, when people are discussing iconic moments in theatre, they will mention Supple's unique vision. It's a project that assumes multiculturalism is bred in the bone, not dragged out for special occasions.
You listen to these actors speaking in their native tongues and – if you have the slightest knowledge of A Midsummer Night's Dream – you will not only understand them, but you will appreciate them fully.
For those who might be feeling a bit queasy at this point, let me assure you of two things: first, English is spoken half the time and second, Supple's interpretation of the play is so clean and all-embracing that it may be the first time you understand all of A Midsummer Night's Dream thoroughly.
Maybe because he was dealing with people from so many diverse Indian cultures, Supple lets each element of the play stand on its own. No diva of a Titania or starstruck Hermia tries to grab centre stage.
In Supple's vision (just like Shakespeare's), everyone is part of a giant puzzle and is equally important.
Still, there are people and performances here you won't forget.
P R Jijoy is one of the most effective Oberons I have ever seen, carrying the elegant magic of the fairy world with him as if it were as natural as the air he breathed. His rages, his romanticism, his love of nature are expressed in a fluid way that one cannot imagine being improved on.
And his partner-in-crime, Puck, as played by Ajay Kumar, manages to be both profoundly earthy and lighter than air at the same time. Their scenes together are the essence of what is so fine in this play: the unreal treated as reality.
You'll also love Shanaya Rafaat's haughty Helena and Joy Fernandes's lusty Bottom. But the whole company is praiseworthy.
Come. Listen. Dream. Rejoice.