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

by November 29, 2017

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by William Shakespeare, was thought to be slightly plagiarised. This highly performed play of passion, pandemonium and comedy, was first performed on New Year’s Day 1605. Four hundred years later, in the final production of the year, the Gap 2 students at The Actors’ Hub are presenting one of the best-loved plays ever written, at their new Studio, 129 Kensington Street, East Perth.

The two-and-three-quarter hour shows begin at 7.00 each evening until Saturday 2nd December. There is also a 2.00 pm matinée on Saturday the 2nd.

 

The scene is the countryside around Athens. The period is a fine blend of 15th century and modern day.

 Jamie Davies designed and constructed the attractive set. It comprised various live plants, with suspended muslin banners representing the vegetation at the entrance to the depths of the forest. The dozen, white hangings had flowers attached. A green silk loop represented a liana-like forest growth that acted as a swing and a sleeping bower.

The clever mood lighting was designed by Dean Morris, and operated by ‘The loveliest Gap student ever!’ who suffered the common glitch of switching on the laser projector, expecting patterns but got a Microsoft setup picture projected instead. A minor problem in an otherwise excellent lighting plan.

The combined set and the lighting created a much better, dense and threatening forest effect than one would expect from the materials and equipment used.

 

      Theseus, the heroic Duke of Athens (Tyler Lindsay-Smith), is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Ashana Murphy) by nipping into the forest with her for a quick pre-nuptial treat. However, the nobleman, Egeus (Quintus Olsthoorn), and two young men, Demetrius (Bryce Fenwick) and Lysander (Carlin Monteiro), interrupt them. Then the Master of the Revels, Philostrate (Nicholas Allen) who is trying to organise the entertainment for the wedding celebrations, arrives with his strange suggestions.

     Egeus would like his daughter Hermia (Makayla Deacon) to marry Demetrius, who loves Hermia, but unfortunately, Hermia is actually in love with Lysander, and so adamantly refuses. Theseus, acting as Duke of Athens and head prosecutor, gives Hermia until his wedding to consider her options. If she disobeys her father’s wishes, she may be sent to a convent or even executed.

     Hermia and Lysander elope the following night, planning to marry in the forest home of Lysander’s aunt. Hermia tells her plans to her best friend Helena (Sophia Gilet), who still loves Demetrius – even though he jilted her after meeting Hermia. Helena and Demetrius then follow the eloping couple unto the woods.

     In the same woods is a frollick of fairies, who are Titania’s servants (Talia Hart, Chloé Gaskell, Steph Bedford, Rachel Lewis, Gillian Mosenthal, Tyler Kirk, Tia Cullen, Brittany Paul and Patrick Truman-Healy). They are controlled by Oberon, the Fairy King (Glenn Wallis), and his Queen, Titania (Lauren Thomas), who intend to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta.

     Also in the woods is a band of Athenian rustics, who are under the supervision of their director and producer, the carpenter fop, Peter Quince (Kyle Kash). Most of the various craftsmen have little desire to perform at the Duke’s wedding, but the weaver, Nick Bottom (Justin Gray) is willing and enthusiastic to play ALL of the parts in their play.

     Annoyed with Titania, and wishing to play a revengeful trick, Oberon sends his athletic servant, a puck, Robin Goodfellow (Chris Colley), to acquire a magical flower. The effects of this flower will throw the love affairs of all in the play into turmoil.

 

Like many theatregoers, I have seen this play a dozen times and so was quietly thinking ‘please don’t let it be another word for word rendition’; but being directed by Amanda Crewes, and at The Actors’ Hub, I did have hopes for completely new approach. This was certainly something new. From the bride and groom’s bawdy start, to the girls fighting over lovers, the amazingly acrobatic Puck and the suffering of poor, packhorse Hermia, the show just rocked on.

Every scene was energy packed with magic, not simply in the physical movements of each actor, but in the delivery of the wonderfully well interpreted dialogue lines. The actors fully understood what they were saying, and coupled their words with perfect expression of the content in their facial expressions and body language.

The set had drapes all around, and at times, if the actors were facing the wrong way, some of the dialogue was absorbed by the material. The enunciation was very good, but the art of verbal projection was a little weak at times.

Tim Newhouse’s music, mainly on piano, was perfectly interpreted and matched to the situation however I unfortunately found the backing about twice as loud as it need have been. When the fairies sang their chorus I hardly caught a word. Likewise the richness of the script was at times hard to appreciate. Excellent musical work, purely the volume.

The actors were word-perfect (I would expect no less with such a respected school), they all had good stage presence, and performed with confidence. Even the chorus of fairies moved rhythmically and focused on their leaders. Some of the cast were outstanding, Bottom gave a magnificent performance of ‘bold voice’ and the desired over the top ham acting. Puck was the most acrobatic I have ever seen, but Chris could truly act as well!

There is a huge amount of hidden humour in this play, and every scrap was delivered. Ranging from Helena’s ‘woof, woof’, to the various sexual innuendos. Poor Hermia really suffered in her performance, as she was jostled around. ‘No animal was hurt in the making of this play’ – bless her.

A famous play, delivered with confidence and skill. Many congratulations.