Art or Madness? That is the question

By Julia Hartke

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of William Shakespeare`s most famous and well-known comedies. The interaction of a love story is combined with a magical and fairy like setting in a forest. Different groups of characters such as fairies and craftsmen are portrayed in a strange, unfamiliar but still so lovable way. Language, characters and the plot are in unison and harmony and that’s what you are expecting when you go see a theatre play of the Midsummer Night’s Dream. The complete opposite was the case.

Not only was the magic missing throughout the play, but the director seems to have misinterpreted it entirely. Did he even understand the comedy by Shakespeare? Because the only thing this production had in common with the text were probably the names of the characters. Jan Gehler, the director of the new version is at fault for the really bad play in the state theatre Schwerin which evokes only one emotion: the compulsion to escape!

The shallow production is provocative, disgusting and shocking rather than nice to see let alone easy to understand. Even with common knowledge of the book, and having seen multiple adaptions of it, it was hard to follow the confusing story line and modern elements. I truly believe it would have been better not knowing Shakespeare’s work to compare it with to prevent the massive disappointment I felt while watching the play! The plot is hard to follow and I was glad that there was no break in between the acts, because the seats would have been empty afterwards.

The scenery was depressing, empty and just plain boring. Instead of a fairy forest, the scenes were played in front of an office containing a defect printer and four desks, each equipped with a lamp. What could be interpreted as simplistic and evolutional seemed more like a forced modern interpretation gone wrong. The dialogues were barely comprehensible, the characters seemed to just scream and kiss whenever they felt like it and to top it all, the slapping in between led to the feeling that there was no thought script or plan behind the production. And last but not least, the straw that broke the camel’s back was an unnecessary scene where Puck (the lively forest spirit) pooped into the copy machine. Jan Gehler wanted to provoke, but the only thing the audience can expect from the stage production is a headache due to confusion and irritation!

It is not a problem with the actors – they tried their best to compensate for the bad show, but it is hard not to associate them with the disappointing play. They are not at fault and they simply did their job, but I felt really sorry for them. Not only because of the play itself, but mainly because members of the audience kept leaving. I am not a professional critic of theatre plays, but I have seen quite some performances over the years and I have never encountered people from the audience leaving before the official ending of the play. There was no clapping at the end and it was deadly silent. Everyone wanted to get out of the theatre as quickly as possible and while waiting for our jackets you could hear the disappointed viewers and theatre-goers talking about the worst performance they had ever encountered.

Art is subjective – a concept that can definitely be applied to this theatre play. Whether you like it or not depends on various factors, but I have to admit that it was unique and evoked feelings that I never saw coming. Whether or not these feelings are positive is another matter altogether!

The premiere of the adaption of A Midsummer Night`s Dream was on the 28th of September 2018 and it will be played until the 21st of April 2019. The comedy by William Shakespeare is being shown in the main building (Grosses Haus) of the Staatstheater Schwerin. The monthly dates vary from one to six performances in a month. Tickets are still available for the upcoming plays, prices vary from 6€ to 45€ per person.

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