Preview: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last updated 09:09 27/02/2014
Midsummer Night's
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

PARTY OF THREE: Russian director Dmitry Krymov with the six-metre high puppets featured in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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It's A Midsummer Night's Dream with giant puppets and based on just the last three pages. But as its director tells Tessa Johnstone, this doesn't mean playing Russian roulette with a classic.

Russian director Dmitry Krymov acknowledges that Shakespeare - while undisputed genius - can be hard work sometimes.

Which is why he chose to chuck most of the play out and focus instead on the last three pages, on the play within the play about Pyramus and Thisbe, performed by amateur acting troupe The Mechanicals.

"[A Midsummer Night's Dream] is a very long play and it's very well-known. Usually people are so tired if they watch this whole performance that this last little bit, the joke itself, is not represented the proper way and people don't notice it."

Krymov's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream focuses on the tragic love of Pyramus and Thisbe, and he says it involves everything that tragic love involves - including a small dog.

The Moscow-based Krymov says if you look closely at the story of the ill-fated lovers, it is a self-parody of Romeo and Juliet and contains many of Shakespeare's themes.

"Theatre is like a mirror," Krymov says through an interpreter. "You see not just the face but also all the things in the background. We thought it would be really cool if we took the little thing and show the big thing in the little one."

The play is performed in Russian, with English subtitles on screens to the side of the stage, but it is for practical reasons only - his actors don't speak English.

Krymov is in Wellington with 32 Russian actors and stage crew, who are being supported by another 16 New Zealand stage crew and a dozen small ballerinas from Karori. And the dog.

"It was impossible to bring a Russian dog, so it's a New Zealand dog.

"It sits very well and it's as cute as a Russian dog, it looks the same. But we'll see what the dog can do, we've just started rehearsals."

The production was first staged for the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival, and with Europe and Russia coming off the back of a global financial crisis the company was left to scavenge for props.

Which explains a little about why the six-metre high puppets used in the production are made of dozens of discarded objects haphazardly held together with tape and glue.

Krymov said that like in many other countries, there is not enough funding for arts in Russia, and financial crises happen too often.

"When it's crisis, nothing is given. You have earthquakes - we have crises."

THE DETAILS

A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It), Chekhov International Theatre Festival/ Dmitry Krymov's Laboratory/Theatre School of Dramatic Art (Russia), St James Theatre, February 27 to March 2. Krymov will speak at a Festival Talk on the play at Westpac Festival Hub, St James Theatre, tomorrow, 1pm.

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