Show: I, Peaseblossom
Date: December 8, 2015

Venue: Musgrove Studio, Auckland
Reviewed by: JESS SUO

“With your nice dress, gold pendant and black hair, you’re an artist type,” actor Tim Crouch says to me as I walk into the theatre. He is in character as Peaseblossom from the get-go.

I, Peaseblossom is an extravagantly creative and unusual performance by Tim Crouch, a man in his 50’s playing a fairy. Think it doesn’t work? Well you’re terribly wrong.

As the writer and main actor in the piece, Crouch creates the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and showcases Peaseblossom, a lesser known fairy in Titania’s court.

I, Peaseblossom was originally written for children in 2004. Children, as Crouch says, are small characters in life, and their view on it parallels Peaseblossom’s: influenced by a naivety and extreme openness we older folk have lost. But that by no means makes it unsuitable for all audiences.

Crouch inhabits the character in a childlike way that creates an environment for the viewer’s childlike sense of wonder to develop. With Peaseblossom’s pink gumboots, yellow blow-up sun and even the $2 Shop sticker detailing on the sound technician’s laptop, you couldn’t help but feel a tad nostalgic.

The play is laid out as a series of Peaseblossom’s dreams, loosely following the sequence of events in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each dream has a specific theme that oversees the mood and direction of the scene. Crouch’s emotive and adaptive acting sees him transition between each scene with dynamic and boisterous flair.

With the audience at his fingertips, Crouch provides genuine off-the-cuff humour intertwined with Shakespearian quotes true to the original text. His ability to adapt his performance based on the involvement and mood of the audience ensures each performance has its own individual feel.

For Crouch, there is somewhat of a to-and-fro between himself and the audience; the relationship is symbiotic, both relying on each other for each line and every scene. It is theatre that acknowledges we exist; as we co-author what we see, we are contracted to continue the play, to continue what we see.

Crouch’s interaction with the audience begins as the audience files into the theatre. On stage, he rambles mixed gibberish between exaggerated yawns while commenting on the appearance of the audience of this particular evening. Climbing over seated patrons, calling out members of the audience to fill roles and read cue cards, and proclaiming his love for one lucky person, Crouch is forever involving and drawing the audience further into his abstract Shakespearian adaption.

I, Peaseblossom is a refreshing take on Shakespearian theatre. It is an absurd, abstract look at the well-known, traditional play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both deal heavily with the concept of love and marriage, and it is strangely beautiful to see it from the perspective of a child.

Love resonates so much in this play. Even the confetti cut outs on the stage are of love and doves. Drawing inspiration from the well-received play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Crouch goes a step further to construct a colourful, immersive play that appeals to all age groups. He will be performing five more shows that are certainly not to be missed.

I, Peaseblossom will be performing from December 9-12 at 7:30pm with a matinee on December 12 at 3pm at the Musgrove Theatre. More information, including ticketing, can be found here.

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