I, Peaseblossom is a perfectly timed end-of-year fairy-tale. And like all fairy-tales, its re-tellings will be as unique as its listeners. This night we are packed into the Musgrove Studio. British writer/actor Tim Crouch offers a virtuoso performance that combines comedy with suitable gravity and is pitched at audiences of all ages.
Crouch has developed a series of plays that explore the world of Shakespeare through the dewy lens of peripheral players (Caliban, Banquo, Malvolio and Cinna) and of course, Peaseblossom. From the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream the titular character is the second in this series that charms and cajoles audiences into engaging with a classic.
The stage is strewn with remnants of wedding revelry; there have, after all, been three weddings recently. Umbrellas hang low whilst our central performer, Crouch himself, is decked out in the most perfect pink gumboots, a large raincoat and a pair of mechanical wings. He is ably assisted by his son Owen who sits in a corner and orchestrates Karl James’ soundscape: an ethereal mix of raindrops and lollipops and sandman lullabies.
If you’re a huge fan of the play or are bringing along youngsters for their first introduction to Shakespeare there is much to enjoy and appreciate. Crouch is both masterful and playful, and the swirling states of the dream world weave seamlessly with reality. He is an extraordinarily versatile actor, intermittently all of his characters, and is well-assisted by a very capable ensemble from the audience. He also segues into pithy commentary, including self-confessions of how certain lines just don’t work outside the Northern hemisphere.
Crouch brings much humour and a gentleness to this fairy world where time crinkles into sporadic naps, playful encounters with technology, and alternating bouts of glee and anguish. The instant transportation into this world is a magical one in every sense of the word.
There are liberties taken with time and space, and delightful improvisation, and most are to excellent effect. The only exception is one where the changeling (a stolen child from India), symbolised by an old teddy in pink pants. The notion of the teddy itself is lovely and whimsical, and the stolen oriental child is consistent with the original penned – yet the India in the 1600s, ‘the farthest step’ from the world of the Elizabethans, was more of an imagined than real destination. Within a contemporary context it seems to be a rather an awkward reference that could use an update, especially considering the other modern touches.
If you cringe at audience participation sit at the back. Crouch targets mainly the first few rows and wanders up the aisles. If you have pint-sized punters put them up front because they will instantly warm to this fairy – one who looks like he was left behind a few millennia ago by Eoin Colfer’s contingent in Artemis Fowl.
The show is quick-paced and, except for a few repeating sequences (have patience; the laughter of the kids is totally worth it), is a skip through fields and flowers that will provide you with the most intimate knowledge of Midsummer. The shows are already selling out fast and if you need to get away from the wave of typical Christmas shows this is a whanau-friendly production that will entertain and satisfy.