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Tim Supple’s ravishing Indian Dream took Stratford by storm when it opened during the Complete Works festival last summer. Now it expands into the Roundhouse, filling the vast space with its intoxicating, sultry mix of colour, sound and movement. This is one of the most sensual and visually beautiful Dreams I have ever seen. But perhaps most beguiling is the ease with which it weaves together all the worlds of the play.
Here, the fairies literally punch their way through the walls: what appears to be a huge stone wall at the back of the stage turns out to be paper stretched over a bamboo lattice. The fairies scamper through it; the lovers scramble through it, as it rips to become both the bewildering forest and the emotional thicket in which they find themselves. The wall works both physically and metaphorically – deftly suggesting that the barrier between our civilised selves and our darker desires is paper-thin – and links too to that “sweet and lovely wall” that separates Pyramus and Thisby in the workers’ play. The rich rug on Theseus’s floor is ripped away to reveal red earth; the fairy queen is swaddled in a bolt of crimson silk and suspended, like a chrysalis, as her retinue tumbles up and down ropes. This forest is a place of disturbing temptations, just beneath the surface.
Supple’s cast of Indian and Sri Lankan actors performs in seven languages, delivering some of the key lines in English. They need to work more on the audibility in this new space. But the multilingual staging is rarely a barrier because the performers are so vivid physically. Joy Fernandes, for instance, is a wonderful Bottom, who doesn’t play for laughs, but takes himself earnestly so that, when he is transformed into a lustful, braying ass, we feel for him. Titania (Archana Ramaswamy) and Oberon (P.R. Jijoy) are reunited after their feud in a thrilling, ardent dance, before soberly clothing themselves in finery to become Theseus and Hippolyta.
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