As heralds of the weekend, Friday nights in a residence hall are vibrant. One can always count on shouting, laughter, and general merriment into the small hours of the night. Most of that is ethanol-dependent, however, so for those who don’t drink as entertainment it can be a bit lonely. Frustrating, too, since we have just as much steam to blow off, but nowhere to go. Apart from pubs and all-night bars, very little is open past 6 in the evening.

It has been a good and tiring week with the snow and the AS-ON project, but it’s also held my alarm clock and my phone dying in one day, and saw my watch start losing time (which made me embarrassingly late to my favorite lecture, for which the door is at the front of the room), so last night especially I did not look forward to spending in my room – even with a good book. Instead, I went and bought a ticket to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was over at the Novello, which is a classy, but vertical theatre if ever I’ve seen one; three gilded balconies overlook the stalls and the stage. Nevertheless, it is intimate and the actors have no need of those nasty wire mics that have crept off Broadway recently. (To be fair, that’s as much a testament to the actors as to the acoustics.) I was fortunate enough to have a seat in the stalls, near the middle of row N, so I could hear and see everything. And what it was to experience!

This being the RSC, the acting was superb, as was the direction. I had a few discrepancies of taste with the costuming, but the mixture of classic, everyday, and experimental designs worked to create a strangely natural flow through the different worlds of the dream. The set, too, was perfect in an edgy sort of way. The “flora” was usually acted out by the fairy puppeteers in varying degrees of impish humor while the other props flew on and off on wheels or by pulleys from the lights. The only permanent pieces were the back of reflective mesh, a forest of descending lightbulb stars, and a migrating moon. In fact, when Puck was calling down the stars, or when Titania slept among them, it reminded me of the groves of lights at Floydfest; an again natural, disorderly fusing of metalwork and moss. I can’t quite pin down why, but that has always been a comfortable aesthetic for me.

Dream is a long play, coming in at around three hours, but there was no moment I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. In addition to the dialogue, the physical comedy was incredible, adding dimensions to the play that I’d never read into it, nor seen acted. And when the tradesmen had their play, I’ve never been among an audience laughing that hard! I was afraid I’d never get my breath back, or worse, miss a line. Unfortunately the play closes tomorrow, but I may have to see if I can grab a student seat and see it again. In lieu of that, however, The Taming of the Shrew opens next, and Othello is on at one of the other theatres. Later on in the season, of course, there’s Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot, as well as Jude Law in Hamlet. Looks like I have my theatre life cut out for me.

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