Mask Version Introduction

By contrast with the background settings of these productions, the absence of any such setting in the "Mask" version is starkly advertised. One consequence of having no stage context, is that the actors have only their fictional characters to play - not a framing character (a schoolchild or a drinker) as well. This is not a loss. They may have no stage audience to act to. And they may have no physical set to play in front of (the stage is diamond-shaped and surrounded on all four sides by audience.

However, the fact that the actors are all wearing half-masks has another important consequence. Method or character-acting is happily abandoned for exuberant commedia- style physicality. Using the whole body, the acting is highly expressive: energetic, elaborately choreographed and much more audience-conscious.

The difference between day and night is signalled by an exchange of white masks (Theseus and Hippolyta) for black (Oberon, Titania and fairies). As creatures of the day, the lovers retain their white masks even in the dark.

The simplicity of these half-masks is underlined by the elaborateness of the masks worn in the "interlude" by the mechanicals (otherwise the sole unmasked actors on the stage). The moment where, at the end of the play, masks are removed is especially powerful.

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