Part of British School Manila’s mission is to provide a wide range of holistic opportunities that allow students to discover their interests. With the Creative Arts Centre, such a big, new building needs to be lived in and explored to realise its full potential. On the 19, 20 and 21 June, at the end of the 2018/19 school year, the BSM community were given a taste of things to come.
If ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ then one of the Creative Arts Centres first steps towards excellence in performing arts was the drama departments production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
Shakespeare’s plays were first performed outdoors at the Globe Theatre, an amphitheatre on the Southbank on the River Thames in Southwark, London. The stage for BSM’s outdoor production of the bard’s work was the first performance at the new amphitheatre on the third floor. The aim of acting in the open air, in close contact with the audience, was to add a sense of risk and excitement, to give the play a bawdy party atmosphere, sometimes described as ‘rough theatre’. The dedication given by the actors to rehearsals, and the preparation of the tech team meant that the three performances remained true to the original intention of the play.
It’ll Be Alright on the Night
The setting for the first and third nights was idyllic. The stage of the amphitheatre was outlined by candlelight set out by the cast in costume before the first act; leaves were spread around the stage to depict the forest scenes. The audience was welcome to sit on the beanbags near the stage or on the steps behind. They were encouraged to lay out blankets, bring picnics and sit back with a drink and enjoy the clear evening, away from the hum of the Manila rush hour traffic.
Unfortunately, an unavoidable technical hitch occurred of the second night – somewhat appropriate for a play that includes the mishaps of the Mechanics. A clap of thunder marked a cloudburst that sent crew and actors scurrying for cover. Luckily, Plan B worked well, with the tech team working fast to move stage, sound and lighting into the Holst classroom on the same floor. The show went on, with the comedy and plot not losing any of its Shakespearean sparkle.
The play involves Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazon who are to marry, Theseus’s daughter Hermia, who is betrothed to Demetrius but loves Lysander, and their friend Helena, who loves Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander elope into a forest, Demetrius goes after them and Helena follows.
Puck, a servant of the forest’s fairy king Oberon, and Queen Titania is ordered to collect sap from a magical plant. When placed on someone’s eyes while sleeping, the victim falls in love with the first thing seen after waking up. Puck is told to put the magical potion on Demetrius’s eyes so he sees Helena when he stirs. Puck mistakenly puts the drops into Lysander’s eyes; when he wakes he sees Helena and rejects Hermia. Oberon also puts potion in the lids of the sleeping Demetrius, so when awake, both he and Lysander have eyes for Helena, leaving Hermia unwanted. King Oberon saves some of the potion and puts it on Queen Titania’s eyelids.
Meanwhile, in the forest, the Mechanics drama group, are rehearsing for the wedding. Puck magically changes the lead actor’s head to a donkey’s and lures him to Titania, wakes and falls in love. Eventually, the magic potion is used to sort out the various lovers in time for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most popular play to be performed outdoors, encapsulating all of Shakespeare’s skills of whimsical folly. Watching the first production, under the Manila night sky, was truly magical. With actors using the audience as part of the stage, and the hustle and bustle of BGC muted in the background, the amphitheatre was transformed into a magical wood full of sprites, hobgoblins, lovers and fools.