Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 2023 Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival, fun, accessible, superbly staged and performed- destination theatre – magical evening under the stars

A Midsummer Night’s Dream on at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival – 2023  

When: February 2-23, 2023
Where:  Maynardville Park, Piers Road, Wynberg, Cape Town, 7800  
Book here: 
Director: Geoffrey Hyland
Cast: Chi Mhende, Mark Elderkin, Nomfundo Selepe, Roberto Kyle, Bobby Stuurmen, Jock Kleynhans, Lisa Tredoux, Sophie Joans, Tailyn Ramsamy, Tankiso Mamabolo, Roland du Preez, Dean Ricky Goldblum and Aiden Scott

School block bookings: E-mail jeff@vrtheatrical.com for information and block bookings

Weather line: Weather line: 083 449 1000 – after 5pm
Food: Maynardville Evening Food Market – food and drink may be purchased from food trucks at the evening market- no outside picnics into venue

Maynardville websitehttp://maynardville.co.za/    
VR Theatrical website: https://www.vrtheatrical.com/

#Maynardville #MaynardvilleTheatre #OpenAirTheatre #OutdoorTheatre #Shakespeare #ShakespeareinAfrica #ShakespeareInThePark #SouthAfricanTheatre

Scroll down for creative credits  

A Midsummer Night’s Dream on at the 2023 Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival, until February 23 is a dream of a production. It is loaded with laughter and comedy, accessible, superbly staged and energetically performed by the energetic company. Director Geoffrey Hyland has delivered a production which has been trimmed to one hour 45 minutes and is a sheer pleasure to watch. He has termed it Bonsai Shakespeare. However, within the slimming down of the text, he has masterfully retained the essence and layers in what is regarded as the Bard’s most popular comedy. I reckon that even if you are not a fan of Shakespeare, you will enjoy this production.

I loved the production. I loved being back at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival. This is the first festival, since 2019. It is not just about seeing a play at a theatre festival. It is a destination festival and the surrounding garden/forest is integral to what one unfurls on stage. The entire evening is about communing with others, under the stars in beautiful Cape Town. This year, for the first time, there is a food market (no outside picnics, please), which adds to the festive vibe.

The go ahead for this production was given in October 2019 and what has been achieved is a miracle by the producer, Cape Town Production Company VR Theatrical. Hyland told me how he was mindful of working within the constraints of budget and the need to work fast. He selected the cast from people who he has worked with previously and who has an affinity with and younger cast members who he has seen in action. The selection was about creating a company to bring Midsummer to life – with speed and verve. The actors speak with their own accents. The clothes are what one might find young people wearing. And then the fairies arrive and it’s a blast – beautiful saturated colours, garlands of flowers. It is beach party veering into pool party (uhhm, yes, you know what I mean) and there is flashing of flesh and bodies on the stage. Production spoiler alert- check out the bubble machine- a lot of fun.

There is a fair whack of gender bending with the fairies which adds a delicious twist – with everyone having a wonderful time on stage – using voice and body and this gets the audience whipped up into peals of delight. The diction of each actor is excellent. Hyland told me that he is not concerned with accents – attempting for instance, to get Elizabethan argot going. They speak how they speak and bring their own riffs to the text. Shakespeare is very much about listening to the story. With this production, each person speaks clearly. Mark Elderkin as Bottom had me in stiches. Chi Mhende as Hippolyta/Oberon is beguiling and fabulous. Aiden Scott as Lysander – the voice – the presence- another wow. Tankiso Mamabolo with the Mechanicals troupe (the labourers who enact a play with the play) – her withering looks and gestures – stunning. Sophie Joans as Puck is a delight as she scampers, with her high energy and signature vivacity.  I am singling out a bunch of names here but every person in this cast is impressive. They work beautifully together as an ensemble. There is clowning and physical comedy – but not too much.

In conceptualising the set, Hyland wanted to make sure that the stage would not disappear into the woods. Maynardville is a stunning place to be and what can occur, particularly when it gets vey dark, is that the stage can appear to recede into the forest and one is looking at the trees, rather than what is on stage. Hyland raised the stage and designed the stage to extend into the auditorium (seating space). Jesse Brooks as scenographer has done a sterling job in putting the designs into action. Coupled with luminous lighting (Oliver Hauser), ambient sound design and three original songs (Wessel Odendaaal), the stage area is elevated beyond the woods so that the attention is on the stage- and the play. The play does not get swallowed by the woods. This was a revelation for me to see- how the play is in the limelight.

So, a fun production, a strong company using their voices and bodies – to hilarious effect. To re-iterate, even if you don’t “do” Shakespeare, check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 2023 Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival. It is a wonderful evening at one of Cape Town’s most iconic heritage events. Geoffrey Hyland directed the last Shakespeare at Maynardville in 2019- the tragedy, Richard III- an award winning production. Alan Committie received a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award as Richard. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy. It is not a tragedy. It has been staged to charm, for our edification and delight (remember that jingle – edification and delight – from a Springbok Radio programme… love it). I think that this production strikes exactly the right vibe now, early 2023, loadshedded South Africa, post-pandemic (we hope). It is a joy to sit in the forest and watch the Bard- a beautifully executed production in a beautiful setting. It is not a late evening. The production is fun and funny. There is food and one doesn’t have to schlep one’s own picnic. Go and see this terrific production.

Hilarious: Mark Elderkin as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival 2023. Pic: Mark Wessels. Supplied.
Luminous: Summer nights under the stars at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival 2023 – opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On until February 23. Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen

Under the stars: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival 2023. Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Festive: Twinkly fairy lights at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival 2023. The crowds enjoying the evening.Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Food market: Ruen Venter of OpenAirCollective which is curating the Maynardville OpenAir Evening Food Market- open every evening of the festival – from 5pm. Food trucks sell a range of food and drink, including vegan and vegetarian options. No charge to access the food market. One does not require a show ticket to dine out, under the stars. No outside picnics please onto the grounds. Support the vendors at the festoval. Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream on at Maynardville Open Air Theatre Festival – 2023  

When: February 2-23, 2023
Where:  Maynardville Park, Piers Road, Wynberg, Cape Town, 7800  
Producer: VR Theatrical  

Creative credits include: Director: Geoffrey Hyland
Original songs: Wessel Odendaal
Set concept: Geoffrey Hyland
Scenography: Jesse Brooks
Lighting design: Oliver Hauser
Costume design: Michaeline Wesels
Sound design: Christo Davis      

✳Featured image: Chi Mhende as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Maynardville 2023. Photo: Mark Wessels. Supplied.