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Multilingual Midsummer Night's Dream is a Hit

March 2008
Multilingual Midsummer Night's Dream is a Hit

An Indian theatrical group doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the West? Seems like a mistake. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? It isn’t, and what’s more, this inventive production has made a big splash in Europe and Asia, where the show has gone on tour more than once. The Guardian, giving it a high rating of five stars, points out that “in its strangeness, sexuality, and communal joy this is the most life-enhancing production of Shakespeare’s play since Peter Brooks’s.” And it’s a showstopper, literally speaking. No less than seven languages are spoken in a colorful adaptation that includes dancers, martial arts experts, acrobats, musicians, and oh yes, actors. The performers, drawn from India and Sri Lanka, use a combination of Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit, and Sinhalese for half the show, with the rest of the dialogues being in English.

Conceived by the British Council in India, under the direction of Tim Supple, A Midsummer Night’s Dream had its premiere in 2006. But it’s still going strong and is now coming to America, although the dates haven’t been announced yet. There are also plans to take it to Australia. In the ‘80s, Peter Brooks used a multiracial cast for his famous production of the Mahabharata. This Midsummer Night’s Dream is original for a different reason. Not only is it a multilingual ‘Indian’ staging of a Western classic; it’s being exported to (rather than imported from) the West.

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