REVIEW: MANGA SHAKESPEARE, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTS DREAM- illustrated by Kate Brown

Shakespeare’s enduring characters are set adrift in present-day Athens, but a present with a massive difference – an alternative history. Rigid class systems and `god given’ monarchies of the past have not been lost. Modern technologies meet ancient tradition; and the citizens of Athens are frustrated by continuing restrictions and hierarchies. Only the forest, home to the fairies and fey spirits can offer the illicit lovers what they seek.

You would never think that ‘manga’ and ‘Shakespeare’ would go together hand in glove; however, Brown’s work on A Midsummer’s Night Dream demonstrates why manga is the the perfect medium for studying the work of the Immortal Bard. It allows you to read all the dialogue of the play and also gives it accompanying visual imagery. Unlike with the theatre of movie versions, the manga incarnation allows you to take it in at your own pace and to flip back to previous pages at your leisure.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream lends itself particularly well to manga because the world is fantastical, full of fairies and references to mermaids and other strange things, and it creates a lot of opportunities for artists to get particularly imaginative. Kate Brown seizes this opportunity to maximum effect.

The artwork is absolutely perfect. Titania is every bit the graceful, ethereal Queen of the fairies that will influence fairy lore for centuries to come, with pictures emphasizing her beautiful flowing hair and dress, surrounded by flowers. The anime style also lends itself perfectly to Helena and Demetreus’s predicament. The yaandere obsessed love struck bubbly girl is a staple of anime, so Helena’s over the top obsession with Demetreus was perfectly brought to life.

The crown jewel of this manga, however, is Oberon. Tall, dangerous and sexy with red eyes and horns reminiscent of pan or the devil, he is the powerful chess-master who presides over the proceedings of this strange night of misrule. He has a tall imperious grace, and conveys emotion with his sullen glares and devious smiles.

The only downside to this style, however, is that like with its Japanese counterparts, this manga is not in colour. It’s a shame, because the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a mad energy and vibrancy surpassed only by that of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and it would have been wonderful to have seen that brought to life in bright colours. But none the less, this is still a brilliant interpretation of Shakespeare’s work and definately worth a read.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone studying the play or anyone who’s interested in reading the work of the immortal bard.

RATING: 5 eccentric fairies and spontaneous changes in affection / 5

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