Comparison of Two Productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream
In this assignment I am going to study William Shakespeare’s ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ - Comparison of Two Productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream introduction. Which I will watch be performed by two different theatre company’s. The first show is to take place at the Royal exchange theatre, on the 8th April. Directed by Lucy Bailey. The second performance is to take place on the 16th May, at the Salford Lowry theatre. Performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Directed by Richard Jones. In this assignment I will describe the two different theatre designs. I will also look closely into one chosen key scene, giving a brief plot of the scene and discuss key characters from this scene.
I will comment on how the two different directors, directed my chosen scene and the differences between them while commenting on how affective they were. I will then compare the two different productions overall and specifically in my chosen scene saying which one I preferred and why. As well as any other thoughts on the play. The theatre design of the Royal Exchange is a theatre in the round. A road ran from one side of the theatres across to the opposite side. Although this was a fixes scene it was multi-per phased a lamppost stood in one corner of the theatre.
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This was very affective as it gave the audience the idea of being in the middle of nowhere. A if it was just one on going road. Leading to nowhere. The road played a key part in the play as a car ran across the theatre at different tomes during the production. Part way through the production a puddle was brought into the scene. This also played a key part in the play as the characters used this as a prop all the way through the play. From above the theatre leaves fell onto the road. These leaves changed colour depending on what the setting was supposed to be.
Orange was used when the characters were outside in the woods. They turned brown when the setting was Athens palace. They had to do this because of the fixed scenery. This was not as affective because the audience may have become confused when some scenes were to take place indoors. Exits were placed all around the theatre, which were continuously used by the characters. The scene of the wood and the leaves dropping from above added to the magic of the woods and what happened there. Because the theatre is a theatre in the round the audience felt closer to the action.
It makes the audience feel as if they are somehow involved in the production and that they are stood with the characters, although the theatre was not very successful with some of the dialogue. Key lines were sometimes missed because the characters would be facing away from the audience. The fixed scene was also a little disappointing, as the audience could not see the difference between the two different settings, the woods and Athens palace. The only way that they could show the difference between the two different settings was by the lights that were used from above the theatre.
Different colours were used, as well as the brightness of the light. The theme of the play was created very successfully with the woods affect. Characters clothes indicated to the audience that it had been set in the 20th century. As well as, the use of an electric toothbrush, a mobile phone and a car. This however was very affective. The second theatre that we visited, The Salford Lowry theatre, was a normal theatre setting. Were the audience sat below the production. There were also another two tears of seats above the ground floor. The stage was a black box that moved backwards and forwards during the production.
Which was one of many features of the stage. This was done to change the scene. Unlike the Royal Exchange theatre the scene would change instead of being fixed. Even though the audience could not feel as involved in the show as they may have done at the Royal Exchange, I found that I actually preferred the stage at the Lowry theatre. When the black box stage was moved back another screen fell down in front of it, which had what seemed to be a tunnel with a circular hole at the end of it. A painted beam of light was painted onto the screen, which led down to the circular hole.
The actors occasionally used this to walk through or to sit on a thin wall in front of it. Another screen also fell down in front of that that had three holes cut into it. These were used twice in the show to some great affect. The first time we saw them in action was when the idea was given to the audience that they were all chasing each other up and down the forest. This was done by a small staircase being put into each of the three holes. The actors then ran up and down different staircases looking for each other. I thought these holes represented the actor that was speaking to the audience, thoughts.
They represented what he was talking about. The second time we saw the three holes used was when the three sets of lovers were in bed with each other with a blanket over them. Although they were stood up behind the holes it was still very affective and a good trick of the eye. Small flaps in the walls also played a major part in the production. Oberon would put his hand in a hole and it would appear that his arm had stretched all the way across to the opposite side of the stage. This was very affective as it added to the magic of the woods. Huge fly’s hung from the walls of the forest scene.
Another one would be added every time that scene was used. Some of them also fell off at times. There was a very eerie feel to this production. Not only because of the fly’s but a very disturbing tree stood in the middle of a stage. An actor wore a brown suit with branches for arms and on the actors head was the top of a tree with out stretched and twisted branches. The tree also grabbed one of the actors at one point of the show, and sat down next to one at another time. Puck also carried the decapitated of Bottom around with him throughout the play.
He even began to stroke the hair of the head at different parts of the show! We also saw more of a violent side to the show. When the love juice would be put on somebody’s eyes. The eyeballs of the victim would be taken out and then the love juice would be put on. Were as at the Royal exchange they just touched the person’s eyes. This production also showed a very dark side to the play. Not only because of the black and white scenery but when the mechanicals entered strobe lighting was used. The actors then came on in sharp moves. This was to give the affect that of an old black and white film.
The actors then went on to sit on a train. This was recognised by the audience because there was scenery moving by, in a window. The black and white strobe lighting created this, which I found very affective. I liked the darker side of the play. Instead of every body being happy, and the scenery colourful. It was more affective and set a better atmosphere in the theatre because you were guessing what the actors were going to do next, or if the strange tree would move and grab somebody. Although I thought the director has chosen a bad choice of characters.
This is because in act 1 scene 1 Hermia says “God speed, fair Helena! ” But the actor that has been chosen to play the part of Helena is a black actress. Fair means having a pale completion. Although I found the rest of the play good. The scene that I have chosen to study is Act 3 Scene 2. The lover’s confusion and falling out. In this scene Puck has mistakenly put the love juice in Lysander’s eyes and sends him off to find Helena and to correct his mistake whilst he puts the magic juice on the sleeping eyes of Demetrius. Demetrius wakes to see Helena and falls wildly in love.
Helena now feels both Lysander and Demetrius have joined together to mock her. Lysander and Demetrius argue and Lysander suggests they fight over Helena. Hermia is hurt by Lysander’s suggestions of his new hatred for her. Hermia now turns on Helena and threatens to fight her because she thinks that Helena has stolen Lysander from her. She thinks that she has joined Lysander and Demetrius in mocking her. Lysander is devoted to Hermia, but due to a mistake with the love juice from puck he has fallen madly in love with Helena. He has forgotten all about his love from Hermia and never wants to see her again.
He is chasing Helena as is now in competition with Demetrius for the love of Helena. Demetrius is supposed to be marrying Hermia, by the will of her father. At the begging of the play we see Demetrius avoiding Helena as best he can, but in this particular scene, he has also fallen madly in love with Helena due to yet another fatal mistake by puck with the love juice. When we first meet Hermia she is the typical girl in love against her fathers wishes. Obviously we see from the start that she is very devoted to Lysander, her love, and she does not like to be forced to do things that she does not want.
She does not want to marry Demetrius even though her father has pretty much told her it is that or death. Helena is the girl that nobody wants. She is seen as ugly by the other characters but is in love with Demetrius. Demetrius obviously does not like her as is set to marry Hermia by her fathers will. In this scene Helena becomes very confused when Demetrius comes onto her, as well as Lysander, because this has never happened before. She is usually turned away. Hermia and Helena’s relationship has changed greatly after the intervention of puck with the love potion.
Once best friends, they have become each other’s enemies, and all for the love of Lysander and Demetrius. Hermia and Helena were best friends at school “All school-days friendship, childhood innocence? ” they had complete trust in each other, telling each other their deepest secrets “Is all the counsel that we two have shared, the sisters vows, the hours that we have spent” They worked together on everything they did including sewing and singing “both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion, both warbling of one song, both in one key”.
To some people, Helena and Hermia became the same person, saying the same things, thinking the same thoughts and having the same morals and principles “As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds had been incorporate. So we grew together”. Although the two of them were two separate people, they ere “a union in partition”, compared to double cherry. “Two lovely berries moulded on one stem. Helena, however, thinks everything is some kind of cruel trick against her, and remains slightly calmer than Hermia. “Lo, she is one of this confederacy. Now I perceive they have conjoined all three to fashion this false sport in spite of me”.
The strong friendship between Helena and Hermia quickly disintegrated when they became involved with the two men. The love potion was meant to help, but Puck’s mistake managed to completely reverse the relationship. When both Demetrius and Lysander were under the influence of the “love-in-idleness” flower, Helena believed that both were mocking her. “You both are rivals and love Hermia and now both rivals, to mock Helena. ” When Hermia seems to take the same attitude, even though she doesn’t know what’s going on, Helena accuses her of betraying all women by entering into it. “Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it”.
Hermia thinks that all women should stay together. She can’t believe that she would join two men in mocking her. She thinks that they should be on the same side. Helena and Hermia quickly enter into a massive argument, accusing each other of stealing their love. “You thief of love. What, have you come by night and stolen my love’s heart from him? ” Their childhood friendship is forgotten in an instant, completely torn apart by the two men. It is not the love potion, which has had this effect on the women directly; it is the performance of the two men, arguing over Helena who has caused the break up.
It has confused both Helena and Hermia. Hermia feels cheated, and Helena is the first person she can find to blame. “O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom,” The two women have now both become very annoyed with each other. Helena is taller than Hermia so she takes this as an advantage to mock her and she calls Hermia a “puppet”. “Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you! ” Hermia obviously takes this as a major insult. Although this is the reason that Lysander does not love her anymore. ” Her height, forsooth, she hath prevailed with him”.
Hermia immediately strikes back at Helena and mocks her height and calls her a “painted maypole” She takes this as an insult and becomes very angry. “And with her personage, her tall personage”. In the play Hermia says this very sarcastically. Because Hermia is so angry with Helena she continues to throw threats at her. “How low am I? I am not yet so low, but that my nails can reach thine eyes”. This is a threat that she is going to hit Helena and again is another reference to her anger. Helena does not want to fall out with Hermia.
She cannot understand why all of their childhood past has been so quickly forgotten. Good Hermia, do not be so bitter with me. I evermore did love you Hermia, did ever keep your counsels, never wronged you”. Hermia however does not fall soft and feels hard done by. She is too angry with Helena to forget all of their arguing. “Why, get you gone? Who isn’t that hinders you? ” They start to fight. Helena then gets the idea to run away, but cant, as she foolishly loves Demetrius. When Demetrius has had the love juice put on his eyes and has fallen in love with Helena. He wakes to see her and says “O Helena, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine! ” he carries on with more.
These are all a list of adjectives, describing words, which he uses to tell Helena what he thinks of her. They are also set out in rhyming couplets. Although the rhyme changes on page 47 and stops rhyming. The play contains some comedy. One example of this is when Demetrius has finished praising Helena she says “O spite! O hell! I see you are bent. To set against me for your merriment”. The audience would expect her to fall in love with Demetrius because she would be so shocked after he has been avoiding her, but instead she says this because she believes it is all a cruel joke on her.
In line 155 the word love is changed to mock were as ‘both’ stays the same and Hermia becomes Helena. It is to show the difference between love and hate, in the argument between the two. We first see Lysander’s attitude change towards Hermia in line 157. “Away, you Ethiope! ” He wants Hermia to stay away from her. This is a very affective line because it is the first time that the audience can establish that Lysander has fallen in love with Helena and does not want anything to do with Hermia. She then grabs onto Lysander or hangs on him. He uses adjectives to call Hermia as she hangs off him. “Hang off thou cat…
Vile thing… Or I shall shake thee from me like a serpent. ” Lysander compares her to a cat and a serpent. This is very affective because it matches the drama that is happening. She has grabbed onto him and will not let go. She has become cat like. He then downgrades her to a serpent, something that crawls on the floor. He threatens to throw her off him. This also shows that he does not care for Hermia anymore. “What, should I hurt her, strike her, kill her dead? ” Lysander’s anger has grown. He has become very violent. This is what this particular line shows. Hermai cannot understand why he is saying all of this.
Which is established by the line, “Why are you grown so rude? What change is this, Sweet love? ” she still calls Lysander sweet love. This is probably because she is so confused. I thought the scene that I have focused was directed quite well by Lucy Bailey at The Royal Exchange Theatre. I found that some parts were better than others. I thought that the main prop in the scene, a puddle, was far to over- used by the characters. It began to get annoying after a while because they just started throwing each other into it for no reason. It started off as being very affective, but lost its invectiveness as it was used more often.
I also thought that the character of Lysander made to much effort. He would not stop waving his hands around and throwing his shoulders back. He would not keep still and just kept prancing around the stage. I thought the line “Hang off, thou cat, thou burr… ” was delivered well. This is because it matched the drama. The audience could see that Lysander was in some distress and was losing his patience with Hermia when she was hanging in him. She grabbed onto his back and ended up facing him. This part was a particular part that stud out to me. I thought it was choreographed very well.
I also thought all of the lines were delivered well by the rest of the actors. Although some of the comedy was missed because the actor would have his or her back to me. This could have been changed by the director telling the actor to stand so that the audience was both on the right and left side of them. That way none of the lines would have been missed. But this is a disadvantage of performing in a theatre in the round. I thought the use of costumes was good in this particular scene. Some of them were ripped on the sleeve or torn up the leg. Which gave the affect that they had been in the forest along time and had been running round.
Although I thought there was no need for an actor to take a layer of clothing off for no reason. I found that a little disappointing and it could have been directed better. As well as the face that it was the men taking their clothes off, not the women! The only prop in the scene was the puddle, which I have already mentioned. Leaves fell from the top of the theatre, which added to the affect of the forest. This was very affective. The leaves were also red. Which maybe represented the anger of the scene. Although I am not sure if that was purposely done by the director.
The lights that were used in this particular scene were green, which obviously just represented the forest. There was also a spotlight, which was just to pick the character out that was speaking so that they could be recognised by the audience. Overall I thought the scene was directed fairly well, but a little disappointing in certain parts. I thought the scene was directed well, but again failed in some areas and could have been directed better by Richard Jones. I thought that the fact that this scene did not have a puddle was much better, because they may have been led to overusing it.
The main prop was a hump, which stood to one side of the stage. None of the comedy or any other lines were missed in this scene because the characters were never stood at a blind spot. The director had obviously made sure of this. A very disappointing part of the scene was when Hermia compared Helena to a “painted maypole”, They only problem was, was that Hermia was actually stood higher than Helena when she delivered this line. She had taken her place on the main prop. This was also revered when Helena called Hermia a “puppet”, but was actually stood lower than her.
It was supposed to be showing the contrast between the two characters. But the contrast was taken away by bad placement. This could have been directed a lot better by Richard Jones by changing were the characters were stood, and put Helena stood on the main prop and Hermia on the floor. “My legs are longer though, to run away”, this line was wasted in this scene because the two actors were actually about the same size as each other, and so the line was not as affective. A good part that stud out for me was when Hermia attached her self to Lysander in the scene.
When he threw her off, he actually threw her off with some force, and she landed on the floor. This was directed much better than the Royal Exchange because Lysander looked much more angry. So that part was more affective. I thought it was good that while all the arguing was going on the strange tree went and sat down in the corner. Then Demetrius was went and sat next to it but did not seem to notice, this was very affective because it made it look like it was a perfectly normal thing to happen in the woods. I thought it was good that the actors did not prance around on stage, and stayed in one position on stage.
I thought the costume design of the characters was slightly better than the one at the Royal exchange. They used lighter colours so it didn’t look quite as modern, which I personally preferred. The women also took more off, which was much better!! Although so did the men… There were no particular lights used in this scene. The director could of used a different colour filter on the light to add to the atmosphere of the scene. Such as red and orange. Overall I preferred the second production at the Lowry theatre. This is because I personally prepared the darkness, and more violent side of the show.
When Hermia was thrown of Lysander’s back she was actually flung, which I thought was done a lot better than the Royal Exchange. The only thing I found that was done wrong in the scene that I focused on was hen Helena mentioned she had longer legs, when they were about the same size as Hermia. I thought the halls in the walls, and then the actors stretching across the theatre was very affective. It gave a better sense of the magic that was happening in the woods, to the audience. The royal exchange could not do this because they had a fixed scene, which I was bored off by the first half of the production.
I thought the scenery at the Lowry theatre was excellent and ho w affective they were, such as the strobe lighting and the circular holes in the wall were actors would appear. I felt that Richard Jones had put much more thought into the scenery than Lucy bailey. I also thought that the part of puck was played much better in the Lowry theatre, even better than the film version. I got the idea that The Royal Exchange had taken the idea of puck from the film, and put it straight into their version, just with a different actor.
The Lowry version of Puck was much better because he played more of a sneaky part; he seemed more elf like and sinister. This was established by the way he carried the decapitated head around of bottom, and how he would stroke it, like a pet, and just hold it under his arm. The thing that annoyed me most about both the plays was when the actors would keep taking their clothes off for no reason. I would of thought the directors would have picked up on this, because in both productions it was used far too much.
I thought that the production by the royal exchange was a little too much up to date, by the use of a mobile phone, an electric toothbrush, and a car, and the choice of music, as well as the costumes. The mechanics were done a little too much over the top also, especially they’re little play at the end, which I found very boring, and none humours. The version of the mechanicals at the Lowry was much better, no just because they were more realistic, they were more like actors, not builders, but because I found their play much better and not as boring.
The acting was better, and you could see how nervous the mechanicals were when they performed. I would have to disagree with the review of the Royal Exchange as it said it was “jaw dropping”. I found it more… boring, and would not recommend it to any one as it was to over act. Even though the Lowry was darker, and more violent, which some people may prefer, I would recommend to any one. I even preferred it to the film version, which I thought would have had more special affects, as they were to a bigger advantage with money for example. Which the films version, director had obviously not considered.