Sun, 20 Feb 2000

Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' ... with a twist

JAKARTA (JP): "Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" "To be or not to be ... that is the question."

Anyone who has not heard of William Shakespeare needs to seek help. Having written a staggering 38 plays in about 28 years -- tragedies, comedies, romances -- William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights in the English-speaking world to ever grace the Earth. Anyone who contests to this should challenge their paradigms and see what the Performing Arts Faculty at The British International School in Jakarta has to offer.

You might think, "Shakespeare ... serious, too proper for my liking." Unless, of course, you are a bona fide fan, or you have seen the popularized version of Shakespeare in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the 1997 movie Romeo and Juliet, or Joseph Fienes and Gwyneth Paltrow in the more recent Shakespeare in Love. But this is all about to change.

On Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, starting at 5 p.m., Jakarta will see the British International School rise above the norm and show everyone the wonder that is Shakespeare. In a place where drama, music, and art are thriving, Shakespeare will be brought alive with flair, pizzazz and ingenious wit in the school's own rendition of Shakespeare's famous A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This comedy deals with love, confusion, laughter, high spirits and magic -- all the ingredients for a dynamic show. It weaves together a number of different plots: an argument between a fairy king and queen; the love affair of four young teenagers gone wrong; a royal wedding and the efforts of a group of common workmen to produce a play for the state wedding celebration.

Characters are diverse and range from Oberon, the self- centered King of the Fairies, to Bottom the weaver, an unwitting common workman magically transformed into an ass by Oberon's mischievous servant Puck.

And so how is this version of the play so different from other interpretations? Directed by Ron Verburgt, an actor and director of over 300 plays in Australia and the United Kingdom, his contemporary vision of the play has heavy doses of surprise, with circus-like portrayals of characters never seen before. And here is where the "twist" lies.

There are, for example, the four lovers, who sway the stereotypical view of dull, dreary adolescents looking for love, and instead act like love struck clowns in their own right.

Choreographed by Rusdi Rukmarata and the crew from the Eksotika Karmawibangsa Indonesia Dance Company, one of the most exciting "now" dance companies in Jakarta, ridiculously amusing dance routines are zig-zagged between the scenes -- the fairies' dance is particularly one to look out for.

Verburgt's imagination is also vibrant in the chic costumes, stunning make-up, creative props and flamboyant set.

The company has been working on this production since late- November to anticipate opening night later this month. With a multinational cast of 27 upper secondary students on stage and another 15 crew members backstage, this is a big production, and has, so far, been well-received by the rest of the school and the parents.

Members of the whole company have given up two evenings a week and some Saturdays for rehearsal: as Verburgt always says, "Focus...!" to achieve perfection.

Surprising as it may sound, many of the teenagers not involved in the play have committed to watching the performance just to see what the hype is all about.

Verburgt has very high hopes for this production and its cast, and promises that this version of the play "will be different from any other production of A Midsummer Night's Dream ever seen".

Avid Shakespeare fans, come along: you are in for a treat. And even if you are not too excited by bouncing fairies and talking donkeys, come along anyway ... you will be guaranteed a Shakespearean performance thou will not soon forget.

Performances are open to the public. Tickets are complimentary and are available at the senior school office of the British International School. Contact the senior school secretaries at 745-1670 ext. 202 for more information. Tickets are limited, and must be booked and collected in advance. (Andrea Aguirre)