During the most joyous three hours I have experienced since emigrating to Israel, on Monday I watched the best production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream I have seen in 40 years.
It came courtesy of the witty and wondrous TNT Theatre Britain whose members were performing at the Beit Nir Theatre, Zichron Yaacov as part of a nationwide tour.
Seneca cannot be too heavy, as another Shakespearian immortal says elsewhere, nor Plautus too light as the lads and lasses from TNT acted, danced, sang – and otherwise frolicked – through the enchanted forest with nods to traditional British pantomime and even an in-joke for fans of the late comedian, Eric Morecambe.
The guys also threw in smatterings of Hebrew and – real chutzpah this, in the heart of Rothschild country – had the ‘rude mechnicals’ sipping Maccabi Goldstar – Israel’s favourite beer!
These touches were surely down to Israeli Noa Bodner – a double delight as Hippolyta and Titania.
But even as the entire show reminded me why I became a Shakespeare addict aged 11 and then adored an early ’70s romp at Sheffield, UK’s old Playhouse, I scouted the audience and saw a new generation of devotees laughing fit to bust throughout the auditorium.
TNT boasts that it performs in 30 countries on three continents. According to The Guardian newspaper, they’ve long since ditched “television based realism in favour of fantasy, imagination, physicality and a muscular approach to serious text.” No kidding! The approach of director, Paul Stebbings and dramaturge, Phil Smith, shines through every moment of every scene.
Just one small caveat: They overdid the ‘play within the play’. No wonder Theseus and Hippolyta were a mite restive – at the end of a deliciously long matinee, so were we!
Note: I’m still unsure where one ends and the other begins, but the performance was billed as being by TNT Theatre Britain in an American Drama Group Europe Production.