A Caribbean Dream

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

A Caribbean Dream
"There are some brave decisions here. This is not the entire Shakespeare, but a cut down version, including the key bits and, where necessary, pruning boldly."

Sometimes you start in on a film and you get it wrong. You think its going to be great and then it isn't. Or, contrariwise, you just know you are going to hate it, and then you fall in love. So it went with a Caribbean Dream, a lush, fun, original re-imagining of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, set against the backdrop of a full moon and a Caribbean Festival.

Both plot and language stay reasonably close to the original. This is the story of true love thwarted and true love rewarded. And its complicated.

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Lysander (Jherad Allenye) loves Hermia (Marina Bye), and Hermia loves Lysander. Helena (Keshia Pope) loves Demetrius (Sam Gillett); Demetrius used to love Helena but now loves Hermia. Egeus (Anthony Troulan), Hermia's father, prefers Demetrius, and asks Theseus (Aden Gillett), the Duke of Athens, to enforce his wishes upon his daughter. According to Athenian law, Hermia has four days to choose Demetrius, or to renounce her life of privilege. This just will not do. So the headstrong Hermia elopes into the nearby forest, taking Lysander with her. The two are closely followed Helena and Demetrius.

Complications arise, as Fairy King, Oberon (Adrian Green) and his Queen, Titania (Susannah Harker) are currently feuding over custody of a child Titania has adopted. Also stumbling around among the trees are a band of local players, led by Bottom (Lorna Gayle) who have made their way there to rehearse a play for the festival.

The stage is well and truly set, and events are set in train by Oberon's decision to task mischievous sprite, Puck (Patrick Michael Foster), with wreaking havoc. First, by causing Titania to fall in love with the first creature she lays her eyes on when she awakes, which, by a twist of fate turns out to be a magically transformed Bottom. Then by re-aligning the geometry of the love quadrangle being played out by Hermia et al.

But of course, as well as being mischievous, Puck is careless. So the best laid plans of elf and sprite go very much “a-gley”, and the result is several wrong couplings before the proper geometry of Demetrius-Helena and Lysander-Hermia finally emerges. Then its back to parents and happily ever after. Glorious: and topped off by the players' performance at the end.

So why the hesitation? In part, it may be the filmmakers' own art that got in the way. For the film opens with a seriously realistic depiction of Theseus driving to meet with Egeus daughter in a stretch limo, with full-on Shakespearean dialogue in play. These two aspects jar – at least initially. They then meet on the veranda of a luxury villa. Again, that slightly stilted dialogue and a noticeably washed out colour palette to the filming.

But that is unfair. It takes a moment to re-adjust one's sensibilities to Shakespearean mode, but once adjusted, this works fine: and – the artistic trick – I suspect the washed out intro is at least partly deliberate, a direct contrast to the sumptuous, rich tapestry of almost debauched colour that arrives on screen as the action moves to the forest and the realm of Faerie. There is music aplenty, Caribbean rhythms that make you want to get up and dance, all adding to the party atmosphere. And there are some brave decisions here. This is not the entire Shakespeare, but a cut down version, including the key bits and, where necessary, pruning boldly.

Puck is re-imagined as not the youthful sprite, as traditionally played, but as camp and wicked, older and queer. Think Quentin Crisp, endowed with mischief magic. The play within a play that is put on at the end is essentially the same as in Shakespeare's, but re-cast into a Caribbean context – the untold story of the King JaJa and the Young Becca - with added modern jokes. A recurrent one-liner, for instance, is the suggestion that the lovers will rendez-vous at the Constipation Statue. By which they mean, of course, the Emancipation Statue. Purists may complain. But the Caribbean Dream preserves the spirit of the original while bringing it forward into modern times. The lovers even, very obviously, carry out some of their secret dialogue via text message.

So, after settling down and getting past the first few minutes, I absolutely LOVED this film. As the credits rolled, I was happy, elated and really glad that I had persevered. So much so that I went straight back and watched it again.

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2017
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A Caribbean take on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Director: Shakirah Bourne

Writer: Shakirah Bourne, Melissa Simmonds, based on the play by William Shakespeare

Starring: Adrian Green, Susannah Harker, Sam Gillett, Jherad Alleyne, Marina Bye, Aden Gillett, Sonia Williams, Patrick Michael Foster, Lorna Gayle, Keshia Pope, Tiffany Skinner, Shakira Forde, Kaya Bellori, Shannon Arthur, Simon Alleyne

Year: 2017

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK, Barbados

Festivals:

EastEnd 2017

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