Directed by Peter Evans
Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse
August 30 to September 13, 2014
Review by Len Power 30 August 2014
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays. Its strange plot about young lovers, a forest, fairy kingdoms and magic spells gives directors plenty of opportunity to use their imagination when staging it.
The famous Peter Brook production of the 1960s dazzled audiences with its way-out production. I remember it left this first-time viewer of the play none the wiser about the story even though I enjoyed every minute of it. Bell Shakespeare’s snappy new production, retitled, ‘The Dream’, probably works best for people who know the play, too. If you’re not familiar with it, you might wonder at times what’s going on, but it won’t really matter. You’ll have a hugely enjoyable evening watching this excellent cast play up the farcical elements of the play.
The setting by designer Teresa Negroponte looked like the loft of an old building with a dilapidated roof. It gave the play a feeling of it all being a bit of a shambles. This feeling was continued into the many mixed-style costumes hanging on racks ready for use as needed and clearly visible behind the setting. Scene changes seemed improvised with, for example, furniture being simply being thrown onto its side or a table being suddenly swept clean of props and dumped into a corner. The wooden roof became the forest of the play with lots of holes for the cast to hang from or climb through.
The lighting by Rachel Burke added great atmosphere, as did Caitlin Porter’s subtle sound design.
The apparently rough and ready playing by the cast matched the setting very well. There was strong ensemble playing by the cast of eight playing multiple roles throughout the show. Standouts amongst the cast were Nikki Shields as Helena, Julie Forsyth as Puck, Richard Piper as Bottom and Lucy Honigman as Hermia. The frantic acting of the cast of the play within a play was a very amusing highlight of the show.
Director, Peter Evans, has produced a very enjoyable, very theatrical production which celebrates the show for itself without any impositions of style or period. It’s a dream of a comedy and that’s all you need to know when you take your seats for this one.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 31 August 2014 from 5pm.