Life could be a dream on the island of Barbados, or this could, as a little boy goes to sleep and imagines - or remembers - the time when at one of the wealthiest homes on the place the staff turned mischievous. We they actually up to no good, or were they even fairies who were amusing themselves at the expense of their bosses? Certainly Puck (Patrick Michael Foster) had a glint in his eye when he added a special sprinkling of sparkle to their drinks one afternoon, with the effect that their emotions were toyed with, a serious matter when they were planning to pair off and wed, though not entirely to the satisfaction of anybody. What would arise from this night of chaos?
Updating the plays of William Shakespeare would seem to be a pastime much-beloved of low budget filmmakers since the inception of the medium, but A Caribbean Dream was a little different, since it was made on Barbados, as the title suggested, not the most obvious location for the Bard. Yet adaptations such as this merely proved his versatility, not that he had anything to do with this production five centuries on, purely demonstrating that a cast iron plot can be built on by anyone looking for a basis for their movies, plus you had the extra cachet of attracting the interest of the highbrow types seeking out every fresh variant on his efforts that popped up year after year.
It had to be said, there were by this stage hundreds of versions of Shakespeare plays in television and cinema, and not every one stuck to the specifics of the text, though adapter and director Shakirah Bourne preferred to keep as much of the original dialogue as she possibly could, with digressions among the less high-falutin' characters into a more Barbadian vernacular (though not so much that they were impenetrable to the non-local). The cast were a mixture of Barbadians and Brits, and the most famous person from the island was... not to be seen here, so no Rihanna, but you could see the sort of picturesque locations she called home, or at least she did before embracing a more international lifestyle.
Still, this was about as high profile as the nation's cinema had been, well, ever, and it went down pretty well there, even if you wondered how accurately it was representing the locals in the more Shakespearean and fantastical sequences, of which there were more than a few. The plot was a mix up of romantic proportions, as the fairy dust means two couples, Lysander (Jherad Alleyne) and Hermia (Marina Bye, comedienne Ruby Wax's daughter), plus Demetrius (Sam Gillett) and Helena (stage actress Keshia Pope) are convoluted in their affections and spend the night in the jungle sorting themselves out. All the while that was going on, Queen of the Fairies Titania (Susannah Harker) is enchanted to fall for Bottom, a lowly fisherwoman (Lorna Gayle), whose head turns into a pig's features.
As you can see if you know the play, there were some alterations made, though nothing that was so outrageous that it altered the spirit of the piece utterly, and indeed whole stretches would go by with the Shakespearean words spoken against a background of green foliage, creating a pleasing, relaxing air in spite of the importance of sorting out the confusions of the narrative. This was a fairly brief journey, it had to be said, as if Bourne was keen not to wear out her welcome so the source was pared down to the barest essentials, and the low budget did show to the extent that A Caribbean Dream resembled an ambitious home movie rather than some lavish production. To undercut that underfunded atmosphere was the sense of the exotic thanks to the attractive scenery and an engaging clash of the demeanours of the two countries involved in creating the result, nothing violently uproarious, but enough to give it an edge. If, in the end, it seemed destined to be shown to schoolkids in class to keep them interested in the material, there was no real shame in that.
[A CARIBBEAN DREAM is in UK Cinemas and digital / on demand 10th November #ACaribbeanDream]