Saturday, October 28, 2023

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”,

Dance / “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Queensland Ballet. At The Canberra Theatre, until October 28. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

This dream begins when the curtains opened to reveal a magical and enchanted set, with fairy lights, a twisted bridge and multi-level pods. Purple lighting and costumes twinkle to life with a flutter of spritely fairies swirling about the forest. A changeling is found, asleep, by the Queen of the Fairies, Titania (Lucy Green), and her King, Oberon (Victor Estevez) is filled with a jealous rage as the lights glow red. The posturing by Titania and Oberon is filled with chemistry and fire. 

Meanwhile, a large group of curious explorers of questionable competency descend upon the forest and set up their tents, bringing with them a love triangle, well square, as the affection directed at Demetrius (Vito Bernasconi) from Helena (Georgia Swan) is unrequited. The lovers Hermia and Lysander (Mia Heathcote and Alexander Idaszak) are watched by Demetrius who also loves Hermia. 

Each character is brilliantly cast, and dances their playful and energetic choreography to perfection, with wonderfully executed comedic timing.

Oberon’s minion, Puck (Kohei Iwamoto) was cheeky and likeable as he sprinkled the dust from a flower (a little underwhelming-looking flower) on various characters, mixing up lovers and causing mayhem. He showcased a nimble adroitness but lacked flexibility on some of the leaps.  

The set, by Tracy Grant Lord, who also designed the costumes, continues to delight and surprise as little sleeping pods open and close, revealing that Titania, less regally costumed than Oberon, is now in love with Bottom (Rian Thompson), who has been transformed from hapless wanderer to a donkey. Thompson’s hitch kicks are some of the most impressive to be seen. Kendall Smith’s fairy lighting subsides until order and propriety (of sorts), is restored to the relationships unfolding in the forest. 

Liam Scarlett who choreographed the Queensland Ballet’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Felix Mendelssohn’s pretty and familiar score, has given each character an accessible and interesting dance vocabulary, with plenty of scope for the ensemble as well as the leads, to explore the humour, energy and beauty in the choreography. The dancers did a remarkable job to navigate the restrictions of a smaller stage given the large set.

A sweet and effortless pas de deux between Hermia and Lysander and an exquisite dance between Oberon and Titania as they reconcile were highlights. 

This sparkling storytelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Queensland Ballet production, in a collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, will be the last to tour to Canberra under artistic director Li Cunxin AO before he leaves the company. 

The curtain fell on one of the prettiest and most enjoyable nights at the theatre in a long time. This is a dream production in every way.