Urban Bard’s mission statement says that it’s “focused on using Toronto’s urban landscape in unexpected ways to stage entertaining and relevant classical theatre.” In this particular instance, the classical theatre is William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Scott Moyle), and the urban landscape is the courtyard of Dundee Place at Yonge and Adelaide.
This show is what’s referred to as “site-specific theatre”, which essentially means that it does not take place in a traditional theatre space. Once you actually figure out where you’re supposed to be – it can be a little confusing, as it is in amongst all the office buildings – you walk into a space with a few trees and benches, and a few art installations.
You’ll know you’re in the right place because you’ll see the actors setting up. There were a few clothing racks scattered around, actors in costume, doing stretches and vocal warm-ups – it was very informal. This was a little surprising initially but didn’t hurt the performance any.
When the show actually begins, you’ll get a bit of a talk about what site-specific theatre is and about the rules for the production. The rules are basically that there are two flags, which set up where the stage is to be at any given time.
The “stage” moves throughout the space – which is probably the key thing to be aware of prior to attending. You will be moving along with the performers, and if you are invited to sit, it’s on the ground.
If you can’t easily move around to follow the action, this may not be the production for you. The playing area is generally flat, although there are a few steps to get up to that point. I also recommend not partaking in the nearby Eaton Centre prior to the show, a lesson I learned the hard way, lugging around my bags throughout the show. Also, you may not want to wear a skirt if you would like to sit at some point – another a mistake I made.
As for the show itself, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. This production is absolutely worth seeing. Sometimes Shakespeare can be difficult to understand, but these actors made their character’s intentions absolutely clear, so even when I didn’t catch every word, it was still clear what was going on.
The show is hilarious – so many funny details have been added in, including a lot of physical humour throughout. The production uses the space well, incorporating existing art installations as part of the set – often climbing them.
All of the actors were absolutely brilliant. They each made their multiple roles so different from one another, so much so that you almost always forgot that they were a different character less than a minute ago. I will say that Melanie Hrymak as Puck delivered a wonderfully adorable, amusing performance.
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
– A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at Dundee Place (1 Adelaide E.) until July 3, 2011
– Shows run Thursday to Saturday at 7:30pm
– Tickets are PWYC, however there is a suggested donation of $15
– Tickets are available at the venue
Photo of Melanie Hrymak and Patrick Cieslar.