A Midsummer Night’s Dream

selection_590Sun, 19th June 2016 – The Queens Garden, St. Andrews, Moscow.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Michael Gibson

The Flying Banana Theatre Company

The magic started when a derelict yard, forgotten at the back of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, was transformed into an enchanted city garden, right at the centre of Moscow, and barely ten minutes walk from The Kremlin. This reflective and beautiful space, complete with a lush green lawn, was created this year and named in honour of Her Majesty The Queen on the occasion of her 90th, Birthday. The garden is designed on split levels with the aim of encouraging theatre and other forms of performance – it is at the service of all, secular and religious alike. Anglican churches have always been multi-functional places at the heart of their local communities, and over the centuries the Anglicans have opened their doors to music, theatre, community events and even cattle markets.

This year is the 400th anniversary of the Great Bard, so what could be more befitting than to christen ‘The Queens Garden’ with two outdoor performances of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Blessed with perfect weather, the much loved Flying Banana Children’s Theatre Company brought the magical ‘Queens Garden’ to life with all the enchantment of forest fairies, enamoured asses, knavish spells and love-lost ladies. During the course of one Sunday afternoon, two performances were staged to packed out audiences. People were standing along the walls of the church, among the buttresses and any other available nook and cranny. The atmosphere was just perfect and utterly electrifying.

This production of Midsummer Night’s Dream was adapted by theatre director Martin Cooke, from the popular Victorian children’s book, “Lambs Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb. These are fun, lively and very accessible stories of the great Shakespeare plays and are perfectly suited to the young and non-native English speakers. Martin has cleverly worked with the Lambs tales to create a performance that appeals at different levels to different people, regardless of their knowledge of the play or complex Shakespearean language. Martin wonderfully captured the fun and delight of Midsummer Night’s Dream and wove it perfectly into the English country garden surrounds of the church garden. The love and attention to detail flowed from the soul of this production, evident in the sets, the costumes and a series of fabulously flamboyant hats. A specially commissioned score by Alexey Steblev with contemporary beats by Sergei Taff, atmospherically set off Martin’s narration and beautifully evokes the feeling of mystical forests as well as the exploits of the four young lovers. To compliment these fairy-frolickings, and lovers’ pangs, specially choreographed sword fights, by the VIVAT Action Theatre Company, provide some authentic swashbuckling action.

selection_591Shakespeare in the open could not be complete without champagne. St. Andrew’s, named after Scotland’s patron saint, is most fortunate to have a Scottish orientated neighbour, The Scottish Whiskey Bar, right next door on Brusov Street. They stepped up to the occasion, adding the final bubbly touch to a sparkling afternoon.

Midsummer Night’s Dream finishes with Puck promising a Fairy blessing on all in The Dukes palace, ‘not a mouse shall disturb this hallow’d house.’ St. Andrew’s Church is blessed to have such a special garden and this Flying Banana Theatre production was a joyful and auspicious beginning to years of thespian garden delights in The Queens Garden. The upcoming programme of accessible Shakespeare productions including Macbeth and a Winter’s Tale, at St. Andrews is very exciting and will bring together world class musicians and great storytellers in a unique and awe inspiring environment. Our next shows at the Church are on September the 3rd and 17th and October the 1st.