PREVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Auckland Theatre Company)

(L-R) Xavier Horan (Oberon) rehearsing with theatre stalwart Raymond Hawthorne (Puck) Photo by Edward Peni

In Love with Shakespeare [by Sharu Delilkan]

(L-R) Xavier Horan (Oberon) rehearsing with theatre stalwart Raymond Hawthorne (Puck)Photo by Edward Peni

It has been a journey of self-discovery for Xavier Horan, particularly since he has gone from being a ‘Shakespeare-phobe’ to acting in two of his plays within a matter of months.

Horan, who has recently performed at The Globe Theatre London in the ground breaking Maori production of Troilus and Cressida, is extremely excited about his role as Oberon in Auckland Theatre Company‘s latest production A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He is equally chuffed about being part of the 18-strong stellar cast which includes father daughter duo Stuart Devenie (Egeus) and Laurel Devenie (Helena) as well as Alison Bruce (Titania), Goretti Chadwick (Hippolyta), Peter Daube (Theseus), Andrew Grainger (Bottom), Raymond Hawthorne (Puck), Rima Te Wiata (Peter Quince) and Brooke Williams (Hermia).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream features three interlocking plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta, and set simultaneously in the woodland, and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.

Horan admits that the whole Shakespeare experience was very scary at first, due to the fact that he was treading on unfamiliar territory. However he says working closely with veteran thespian Hawthorne has been his saving grace.

“I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Raymond because Puck and Oberon are buddies. Working closely together has given me a chance to get help from Raymond, to sharpen my dialogue and performance.”

But enjoying working together has not only be one-sided. In fact Hawthorne has nothing but praise for the Shakespearean novice.

“He is nothing short of blissful to work with. I have had a lot of experience teaching Shakespeare but I’m endeavouring gently to give him the right inflections. I try not to be too pushy with him. He is working marvelously and getting it right. The whole experience has been delightful, particularly since he has so much mana, which is what’s required to play Oberon.”

Horan likens Oberon to the lead character in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon whom he describes as smooth and swift but fiery when he wants to be.

“I like the fact that he can control the elements through lightning, winds and water. It is great to play a character that doesn’t show anger, but instead has a quite silent humming of power within him.”

Having previously mainly done screen and television work, Horan says theatre acting has been different because “I have had to use my whole body to express myself, instead of just facial expressions. It’s a new and unfamiliar skill that I’ve had to learn,” he says.

And working on Troilus and Cressida, concurrently, has not only has been challenging but has helped him with the swift and mystical character of Oberon.

“I have particularly enjoyed being able to incorporate kapa haka movement, which is still fresh in my mind at the moment,” he says.

And from not knowing Shakespeare at all, Horan now feels he has a tremendous appreciation of the Shakespearean language.

“I love his intelligence and it has made me want to read and learn even more Shakespeare. It’s also great to be able to appreciate the depth of language expressed through these stories. To be honest I didn’t realise words could express such emotions. It has opened up a phenomenal world to me.”

Auckland Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Nights Dream plays at The Maidment from 3-26 May. Details see The Maidment.

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