14-23 August, 19.00
“Imagine A Midsummer Night’s Dream through a games console.” This, as laid out in the programme, is the main innovation behind the Beijing Film Academy’s updated version of the Shakespearean classic. It could be argued that with a concept like this, the BFA shot themselves in the foot before they even began staging their production.
I tried to maintain my open-mindedness for the first half hour of this performance, to hope that somehow they might eek a trace of genuine drama out of their ridiculous premise.
Unfortunately it just didn’t happen. The idea that Oberon and Titania are real humans playing a computer game of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is confusing for those who haven’t seen the play before, and aggravating for those that have.
It wouldn’t be quite so awful if there was a decent pay off for this clunking plot device. “Music, dancing and traditional martial arts” are all promised in the programme. Yet the actors’ obvious talents in these disciplines are given short shrift, forced to make way for an excruciatingly unfunny clown scene, and the comic interludes of Puck, whose updated character alternates between impersonating Michael Jackson, and performing a completely incomprehensible rap.
The production is further hampered by the bizarre decision to make the actors speak in a mixture of Chinese and English, when some of them simply cannot make themselves understood in the latter. The various visual effects that were projected onto the back wall of the McEwan hall, intended to make the set “interactive”, were not as impressive as they might have been. The moment when Titania starts engaging a CG lizard in conversation was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my entire life.
Only go and see this play if you hate someone, and are tricking them into accompanying you.