A Midsummer’s Night Dream shows will be held this week at the Great Hall April 9-11, at 8pm. IGNITE sits down with the director-Dr. Derek Irwin to discuss the upcoming play.
“We hadn’t initially planned to host a play this year” begins Dr. Derek. It was a visit from Shona Powell and Martin Berry of Lakeside Campus Arts (who hosted an acting and directing workshop last semester), that began the series of events that led to the production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
The idea took form when the UK campus secured a CASCADE grant that would allow students from Malaysia and China Campus to go to the UK campus and attend a ten day workshop at Nottingham Lakeside Arts.
In order to prepare and select students for the workshop, it was necessary to host a play, and so auditions were held just before the semester break. The first read-through was held in the first week of the second term.
The production is a joint effort of students and staff alike, with staff taking on smaller but key roles: Dr. Mary Ainsley will play Titania on the opening night, Dr. Patrick O’Reilly is in charge of the technical team, Dr. Mohammad Safaei was the dramaturge, Dr. Sean Matthews is Executive Producer and Dr. Derek Irwin is the director. Dr. Safaei, Dr. O’Reilly and Dr. Irwin worked to condense the three hour long Shakespeare play into a 90 minute multi-location production. The China campus with some help of Martin Berry, students are preparing a play of their own, so that all three campuses can come together in June in the UK.
Every production has faced obstacles. One of the initial obstacles for A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which is dubbed UNMC dream on social media, was the location of the Malaysia campus in Semenyih. It is a huge budgetary expense in terms of transport to host the play off-campus like the previous UNMC production The Mikado: A Comic Musical (which was held in klpac).
Therefore, A Midsummer’s Night Dream is being held on campus at the Great Hall. But this gives rise to another problem: the Great Hall is not the best stage for theatre, “it is good auditorium, but not a good performance area” says Dr. Derek. The production team will be using the Great Hall and hopes to counter the limitations of space by the extending the performance area into three stages, two of which will be amongst the audience, and have the cast acting on and between the three stages. This has created a dynamic performance that allows the audience to interact and engage directly with the performers.
This production is also unique because it has adapted Malaysian slang and culture into the traditional Shakespearean play, with the help of the cast and crew. Considering the fact that this production will be taken to Lakeside Arts in the UK campus, a conversation on the interaction of two cultures is something to look forward to, says Dr. Derek:
We haven’t gone as far as hosting full-fledged Malay play, only using a very small slice of Malaysian culture, but there is potential to create a dialogue.
Another interesting feature of the play that can initiate a cultural conversation is the diversity of the cast tself. For example, the role of Titania is played by two British actors who are playing against a Kenyan Oberon. “The diversity was not intentional” says Dr. Derek In fact, the cast were chosen on skill and the mechanicals in particular were “chosen for their ability to play with language.”
Be sure to get your tickets at their booth at the SA circle, and stay tuned for our IGNITE Play Review and photography coverage.