Picture some Australian college kids looking for a psychology project that involves observing live subjects, add a little hypnosis and a lot of Shakespearean shenanigans and you have Picture This: A Midsummer Night’s Comedy. This is a micro-budget, brief (83 minute) flick that puts a very modern spin on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I got a kick out of it. This is not a big, glossy, glitzy Hollywood production, but more like a film school project—and I think it works well for what it is.
The fairy world here is inhabited by college kids (in other words, there is no fairy world and actually, no magic). Jack King (played by Luke Rex) is the Oberon character. He is failing out of his psych program and must make a perfect score on his next project. Jack’s buddy Puck Goodfellow (Jason Bradshaw) agrees to help him make the grade. The film opens with Puck hypnotizing a cat to make it bark like a dog. His hypnosis skills serve the purpose of the magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Jack and Puck come up with a plan to observe an engaged couple in their home via secret video cameras. Jack’s girlfriend Tania (Melissa Martin) plays the Titania part. She agrees to help Jack with the technological side of the project. The kids pretend to install a new cable TV system and once the cameras are in place, they observe the goings-on remotely from the rooftop of the house.
The Shakespearean love quadrangle is Nicole (Victoria Hall) in the Hermia role, Penny (Rachel Terry) in the Helena role, Tom (Drayton Morley) in the Lysander role, and George (James Studdert) in the Demetrius role. In addition, Nicole and Tom’s characters have elements of Hippolyta and Theseus. And Tom pulls triple duty by serving as the ass, Bottom!
The undergrads know they should just observe their subjects and not impact them, yet they can’t help themselves from using hypnosis to induce changes they want to see in the love quadrangle to “improve” their data. The whole thing comes together quite well in an Australian indie, micro-budget, seat-of-the-pants kind of way.
I’m not usually interested in the bonus stuff on a DVD, but in this case, I’m glad I watched it. There is a 10 minute film with screenplay writer/director/producer John Fisk’s advice on “How to Adapt a Shakespearean Play” that I enjoyed quite a lot. It explains his desire to adapt and modernize A Midsummer Night’s Dream by giving Oberon (Jack) and Helena (Penny) more appropriate consequences for what he considers their selfish actions. It explains quite well the motivation for deviating from a strictly Shakespearean storyline and I found this quite interesting.
There’s also a bonus piece on making a micro-budget feature film in Australia, production of this film, and a blooper set. They’re all brief and worth watching (at least on fast play). The bonus material is also available on the film’s website (where you can order the DVD, which is not currently on Netflix). Oh, and as I look at the website, I see that these folks have been up to more Shakespearean adaptation: Shake it Up: It’s Much Ado about Something! What fun!
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