Sunday, 4 November 2001

A Midsummer Night's Dream , VCA Drama, Nov 4, 2001

by William Shakespeare 
VCA Drama School, Studio 45, 45 Sturt St Southbank until November 18, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The austere Victorian College of the Arts Drama School Studio 45, is transformed into a fairy forest at present.

The entry space, contrived as the Duke Theseus' palace, is rich, scarlet and gold. After the opening scene, the audience is moved to seats around the usually cavernous warehouse. The magic of theatrical illusion and design begins to weave its spell.

Set "realiser", Paula Levis, creates an ethereal wood with glittering, fairy-lit trees, falling leaves, rope swings and woody bowers. Sally Hitchcock's sheer cobweb fairy costumes are very sexy and apt. Sound designer (Lydia Teychenne) creates an evocative atmosphere and professional lighting designer, David Murray, lights the woods spectacularly.

Director of the show and Dean of the Drama School, Lindy Davies, secretes, under leaves, flimsily clad fairies brandishing torches in this magical space.

Davies keeps this romantic comedy moving at a swift pace. Each of twelve actors has a substantial role to showcase talents at this exit point from their three years of training.

As Fairy King, Oberon, Angus Grant is passionate and has a clear sense of Shakespeare's language. Alice McConnell plays a luscious Titania and is supported by a sexy, writhing band of fairies (Simon Aylott, Patrick Brammall, Jodie Harris, Rita Kalnejais, Catherine Moore, Peter Cook).

The much-loved wicked fairy, Puck, generally played by a male actor, is played by not one, but two women. (Kalnejais & Harris) They are both cheeky and impish in the role.

This doubling device is most successful in the scene where Puck must fool the two lovers, Lysander) (Aaron Halstead) and Demetrius. (Luke Mullins) who seek their lovers, Helena ( Luisa Hastings Edge) and Hermia. (Amanda Falson)

The production is charming and beautiful to watch. These students make Shakespeare accessible and comprehensible. Performances are particularly strong from Grant, Moore and Edge.

There are a few problems. Some characterisations bleed into others.

And the tradesmen, rehearsing their play for the Duke and his bride, are disappointing clowns. Much of the laughing arose from two actors (Aylott & Moore) simultaneously playing royals and clowns.

This VCA graduation production has one of the great assets of an acting school show: a large available cast, plenty of designers, production crew and fine staff to direct.

Company 2001 comprises twelve acting graduates: six men and six women. All display the burgeoning qualities of the well-trained pre-professional actor. Some are more compelling than others.

By Kate Herbert

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