‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 27, 2016

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is probably William Shakespeare’s most popular comedy play; although normally suitable for young and old, I would class this ‘enlightened’ version as more suitable for adults. It can be seen at Curtin’s Hayman Theatre each evening at 7.00 pm until Saturday 30th.

This is a Hayman Theatre Company’s production at the Hayman Theatre, upstairs in Building 102. There is free parking in carpark B13 – multistorey – then follow the light trail from carpark.

Last Saturday was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, in addition to being his 456th birthday.

In this hour and a half edited version of the play, many of the main players have changed sex.

 

The black set (designed by Amy Tamati) has layered rostra, with numerous white, gauze curtains draped from the ceiling. There were quite a few comical props provided by Sam Elliott and Jessica Nyanda Moyle for the ’ass scene’. Stage managed by Britany Manifis.

       The play opens with Theseus, Duke of Athens (Chris McIntosh), making love to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Alex Gerrans). For their wedding celebrations, Theseus has arranged four days of revelry.

     The Athenian nobleman, Egeus (Sally Davies), arrives with his daughter, Hermia (Jessica Nyanda Moyle – very good) who is in love with Lysander (Terence Smith), but Egeus insists that she marries Demetrius (Indiana Powell) who is besotted by her. When Egeus asks Theseus for his Royal support, Theseus warns Hermia that if she disobeys her father, she could be sent to a convent.

When Hermia’s friend, Helena (Anna Lindstedt), who was previously engaged to Demetrius, tells Demetrius of the eloping couple – she hopes he will love her again, but instead he rushes off to find them in the forest.

     Deep in the woods, a band of sprites, including the Fairy King, Oberon (Chris McIntosh), and his ‘Killer’ Queen, Titania (Alex Gerrans), are arguing about who should bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. Also in the forest are Quince (Annika Jane – good) and his artisans; they are rehearsing for their wedding entertainment – a madcap play. Quince’s inept group, including Snout (Caitlin McFeat), Flute (Kharla Fannon), Starveling (Lauren Beeton) and Snug (Eleanor Davidson) are struggling with even the most basic acting tasks.

       Oberon sends his dynamic servant, Puck (Daisy Coyle – outstanding performance), to obtain the juice of a magical flower, which, when dropped on the eyelids will make the sleeping person fall in love with the first thing seen upon waking. It is placed on the eyelids of Titania and Demetrius.

       Puck confuses the Athenians, instilling the liquid in the wrong eyes, resulting in the lovers becoming muddled. When Titania (Alex Gerrans – very good) awakes, the first creature she sees is Bottom (Maddie Mullins – great comedic delivery), whose head is transformed into that of an ass. Titania falls for this ass-headed weaver, feeding it unusual delicacies whilst giving him a ‘Bohemian’ treat.

   After the confusion, all the loves are reunited and the newlyweds watch Bottom and his fellows perform their bumbling ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ play. Puck and the Fairy (Dylan Dorotich) explain that the whole story has been ‘but a dream’.

 

The interesting and colourful costumes by Amy Tamati and Evangalyn Little (aided by Ellis Kinnear) covered a large range including soldiers, kings and an asses head – a novel, floral version.

Sound designer, Ben Collins, who has tackled major Heath Ledger productions, gave us powerful music, blended with well-known top hits from the 80s. The sound was operated by Brittany Manifis.

Lighting designer Karen Cook created some clever effects with the older style lamps. The lighting was operated by Chelsea Gibson.

Director Philip Miolin, with his assistant Olivia Dugandzic, have accepted a massive challenge by taking one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays and turning it on its head. For someone like myself who has seen this play numerous times, I found it refreshing, but no doubt the newcomers will have been confused, and the true, traditional classic lovers perhaps even upset.

The actors’ performances were very varied. There were a few stunning performances, but one or two actors who have proved themselves in the past, struggled with this new genre – or even the standard Shakespearean delivery. However, thanks to the director, the overall result was clever, fun and will certainly have made the students think laterally, on how to involve the audience and the auditorium.