A Midsummer Night's kids show 

Monster Theatre Company adapts beloved Shakespearean tale of fairies, love and folly

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Dreaming Bard This version of A Midsummer Night's Dream has William Shakespeare in it as a character.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Dreaming Bard This version of A Midsummer Night's Dream has William Shakespeare in it as a character.

It's a cool and unusual idea to adapt A Midsummer Night's Dream — William Shakespeare's forest fantasy about romance, marriage, magic and folly — into a family show.

Vancouver's Monster Theatre Company has done just that, introducing audiences to a tale of mischievous fairies, love, and a donkey.

"I've always loved performing Shakespeare and we have done a lot of adaptations with our adult performances. We thought we would bring some of what we've learned into a piece for children," actress and writer Tara Travis says.

Travis says youngsters are often overwhelmed by Shakespearean language when it is introduced to them in school, and by adapting A Midsummer Night's Dream, they hoped to create a "gateway Shakespeare experience" that will show off the wonderful story often hidden by the wall of words and iambic pentameter.

The newly created show launched in January.

"It's always a risk when you are trying something new, but schools and public audiences alike like it. And we seem to have created a show that is colourful and musical enough to hold the little ones," Travis says.

"There are enough suitable jokes and interest for the older kids, and for the grown-ups, too. We are feeling really good about it and having a lot of fun with it.

"It's full of music, shadows and puppets, good for all ages."

In this version, Shakespeare is very much part of the action. He is a guide to the other characters, bringing the story together — and eventually becomes Bottom, the famous character from the play who turns into a donkey.

The Bard must write a new play for the Duke's wedding but is without ideas. With the arrival of goofy actors, puppets and magic, it all comes to life.

A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place on Saturday, April 1, at the Maury Young Arts Centre, at 5 p.m. It is 60-minutes long and for children aged five and over.

Some of the plotlines have been edited for this younger audience, too.

"It's definitely an adaptation with a capital 'A,' we've played with the framework of the story in order to fit it into the time," Travis says.

"In the original story, there are a crew of actors or mechanicals who are trying to put on the play Pyramus and Thisbe. Rather than having that whole separate plotline, we have the mechanicals tell the story, a whole other play within a play. It's boiled down a little bit because it's about Shakespeare writing."

It makes the telling of such a complex story easier, Travis says, to have it include the writer's creation of it.

Like Monster Theatre's other shows, there are just three actors — Jon Paterson is Shakespeare, and Travis and Sydney Hayduk help bring all the other characters to life.

"I play Titania (queen of the fairies), Demetrius and Helena and I used a mask, which makes for fun, physical acting. Sydney plays Hermia and Lysander, so we're chasing each other all over the place," Travis says.

"It's madcapped!"

There is a farcical thread through Shakespeare's original that isn't lost in this translation, she adds.

Monster Theatre Company is a touring theatre and A Midsummer Night's Dream will be shown in schools as well as public theatres. They have already toured much of British Columbia with it.

Travis says Monster Theatre is also currently performing Till Death, a show about Henry VIII, but this one is strictly for grown-ups.

"Often we will go to a town to do a youth show in the afternoon, then stay in the evening and do a show for adult audiences in the evening," she adds.

Next up for the company is The Canada Show, the history of Canada in one hour, for this country's 150th birthday, which Travis hopes will be brought to Whistler.

The company's previous production of The Little Prince, which also played in Whistler, was nominated for five Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in 2015, which recognizes the best in theatre in Vancouver. The production won Outstanding Design in the Theatre for Young Audiences category.

Tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream are $10 and can be purchased at www.artswhistler.com.

For more information, visit www.monstertheatre.com.

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