Almost 40 years ago, I saw Peter Brookâ€™s production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTâ€™S DREAM with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was so jaw-dropping, it remains one of my favorite theatrical memories.
The set was two-tiered and all white; the motif was that of a circus or carnival, presumably to accentuate the more magical elements in the script.
The troupe had obviously spent months not only learning the verse but also skills such as stilt-walking, plate-spinning, juggling and tumbling. It was literally thrilling to watch the performers do these stunts live because of the element of danger; that they could drop their props, fall or possibly be hurt. So even though it was hilariously funny, the unpredictability of each moment kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Goethe, after watching a particularly bad production, stated, "I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of a tightrope dancer so that no incompetent would dare step upon it." Brook's production had everything but that tightrope, a thrilling event that still reminds me how enthralling a live performance can be.