June 25th, 2019

martha at the globe


I am Cranky about Nick Hytner's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bridge Theatre, as I recently learned that he's more or less swapped the parts of Titania and Oberon - so that Oberon is the one who won't give up the child and is therefore humiliated by being forced to fall in love with Bottom??? (Note: I say "humiliated," because that's Oberon's - real Oberon's - intent, but actually what I always want from Midsummer and that Titania/Bottom relationship is something glimmering and gorgeous, something that makes the "Bottom's dream" speech - "I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was" - seem warranted.) My reaction to this is mostly "bleh," with a bit of "wait, does that mean that Gwendoline Christie won't get to do the 'forgeries of jealousy' speech or have that tender moment where Titania remembers her friend who died in childbirth? That seems like a bad trade," and "uh, why are people so bad at avoiding adding homophobic undertones to 400-plus-year-old texts?" Because now - no matter how lovely and affirming the actual Oberon/Bottom relationship is - part of Titania's plan to humiliate Oberon involves the unavoidable undercurrent that there should be something inherently embarrassing about a man falling in love with another man. (I am sure Hytner didn't intend this, but, like, yikes. We'd have to live in a far less "no homo," queerbaity world for that implication not to be there, I think.) (See also Simon Godwin's decision to make Malvolio into Malvolia at the National Theatre: were Maria and Toby et al. supposed to read as though they were specifically targeting Malvolia as a lesbian by getting her to fall in love with Olivia, or was that just a thoughtless accident?)

And...okay. I know the production is doing the standard doubling of Titania/Hippolyta and Theseus/Oberon, so I can sort of see a theatrical logic to having Theseus/Oberon be the one to undergo a transformative experience in the woods, as a way of motivating Theseus' change of heart at the end of the play. But it also feels to me like a lazy attempt to make Titania more of a Strong Female Character (ooh, this time SHE'S the boss!), while forgetting the fact that the original-text Titania is a major moral voice in the play. (And if I were Gwendoline Christie, I think I would be put out that I didn't get to deliver those ringing, defiant monosyllables: "And for her sake do I rear up her boy, / And for her sake I will not part with him.")

I mean, I bought a ticket for the NT Live broadcast in October, so I'm not boycotting it or anything, just cranky.