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AFTLS has a dream

Observer Scene | Monday, November 8, 2004

The Actors from the London Stage brought its interpretation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to the Leighton Concert Hall this weekend, and with minimal scenery, no real costumes and few props turned out an amazing performance of one of the Bard’s great comedies. AFTLS is a group of five different actors who take on all of the roles in one of Shakespeare’s plays between them, and it requires deft acting skills in order to portray shifts in character to the audience with few visual aids at their disposal. The women both wore striped pants, the three men wore white slacks and all of wore button-down shirts. That was the full extent of their costuming. Props included a few musical instruments, a scarf, donkey’s ears, a wooden sword and a brick. In many cases, Shakespearean comedies can be difficult because jokes written in the 16th century may be lost on modern audiences, but a good performance can overcome such difficulties and make old jokes new again. This performance of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” did a fantastic job of using delivery and physical actions to bring Shakespeare’s comedy to life and to elicit big laughs from the audience at the same time. The highlight of the performance was the play-within-a-play that concludes the story’s action. Each of the five actors appeared as a character playing a part in the play, “Pyramus and Thisbe,” and at the same time played members of the audience watching the work. The smooth and clear transition from one group in the scene to the other revealed the talents of the actors, as well as showed the effectiveness that simple props can have. It proved to be the funniest scene in a play that created a great deal of laughter as a whole. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was an apt choice for the AFTLS format, particularly because there were few scenes where one actor had to play more than one character, which can cause some confusion. The work’s light and fanciful humor can often get bogged down in elaborate sets and costumes, so the pared-down staging made the carefully constructed characters and settings stand on their own. Overall, the AFTLS performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was a wonderful interpretation of the famous work that allowed the play’s merits shine forth, and it brought the jokes in the play to life in such a way that reminded the audience why it is put in the “comedy” genre.