Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Midsummer Night's Dream in Kourium

Kurium is one of the best-known tourists spots in Cyprus, complete with an ancient amphitheatre and some quite well-preserved mosaics and parts of old temples. When we first moved out here, nearly nine years ago, there was an annual Shakespeare performance in the amphitheatre, and we went to see a couple of them.

A few years ago Kurium was closed for a lengthy time, for renovations. I'm not sure when it re-opened, but for various reasons we had not been back since the re-opening, partly because it's around an hour's journey away and many of our guests have been already.

But this year, our church house group decided to go and see 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' which is this year's production, and booked tickets for Saturday night. Trying to sort out the logistics of getting twelve people there in the minimum of cars took an unbelievable twenty minutes of our group on Friday.. but we all got there, about half an hour before it was due to start.

We were impressed to see that it seemed very well-organised, with stewards telling us where to park, and a shuttle bus taking car passengers up the hill. The amphitheatre isn't that far from the entrance - about a ten-minute walk - but at 7.30pm it was quite warm and humid, and we didn't want arrive hot and sticky.

There's a new visitor centre, the mosaics have been covered to keep them away from the sun, and there are safety guards at the edges of the amphitheatre. All very tastefully done. We were impressed.

We found seats, armed with cushions (sitting on stone for lengthy periods is NOT recommended so we had brought our own - but could have hired some at the entrance) and immediately loved the look of the set: mainly green, with a trampoline disguised as a pond.

The tickets said that the play would begin at 8.00pm prompt... we wondered if it really would, but were not surprised that it started at 8 o'clock Cyprus time, ie about 20 minutes late. A couple of people were adjusting lights at the last moment, so perhaps there were technical problems.

When it started, the amphitheatre only seemed around half-full, but more people drifted in even after the opening. It probably seats around 3,000 or more at full capacity, so even half-full there was still quite an audience.

The acting was not as brilliant as that in the play we saw on Thursday, but then it was not a professional cast. The main characters did well, including some who did not have English as a first language, and we thought the costumes excellent. It was certainly much more colourful and visual than 'As you Like it'.

After the opening scene in which Hermia is ordered to marry Demetrius, or die, there's humour in the form of some village workmen planning a play. Bottom the weaver was superbly cast, and really carried much of the show. The man cast as Thisbe in the workmen's play was also very good.
It's a story I know well - we must have studied it at some point in my secondary school days, since there were three or four speeches which I found I could recite in my head almost word perfectly along with the cast, much to my surprise. The amphitheatre setting meant that sound carried well, so even the more quietly-spoken members of the cast could easily be heard.

Some children from a dance and theatre school played the parts of fairies, well-choreographed and confident, using the trampoline effectively to give the impression of flying on and off stage. Unfortunately by the time they appeared, it was getting dark and photographs of movement from a distance, with longish exposure don't really work.

Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies, were clear and quite imposing, but perhaps the star of the show - or sharing the honours with Bottom - was Puck, played by someone who looked and sounded like a teenager. He gave exactly the right impression of a slightly mischievous sprite, with constant movement and a lot of humour.

All in all, very impressive.

Apparently 24th June is Misummer's Day, or so one of our friends told us. I thought it was June 21st, but she told me that's the first day of summer. By that reckoning, June 27th should be the last day of summer, but while the UK sometimes has little more than a week of true summer weather, we're only just at the start in Cyprus. By the time the play finished, around 11pm, the air temperature was pleasantly cool (around 20C/68F) although rather sticky. This time we did not wait for shuttle buses - we could have queued for hours - but walked back to the cars. Downhill at night was no problem.

I was almost asleep on my feet by the time we finally got home, and almost freaked when I discovered I was sharing the bathroom with the first live cockroach of the year. Ugh. I had seen three dead ones in the house in the last couple of weeks, but those are easily dealt with. This one must have got in the window while we were out. Thankfully, Richard dealt with it.


Jax said...

I think 21st June is the summer solstice and Midsummer's day. Depends who you ask as to when summer starts as far as a quick google can tell.

mreddie said...

That sounded like a very interesting evening. ec