Friday, 10 January 2003

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Australian Shakespeare Company, Jan 10, 2003

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare   
The Australian Shakespeare Company
 Botanical Gardens  Gate F, Jan 10 to March, 2003 (no closing date)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is that time again. After dark, Melburnians flock to the Botanical Gardens to sit on plaid picnic blankets snacking from wicker hampers. Yes. It's time for another ebullient production by Glenn Elston of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Usually, the environment is the feature of the show but this year it is the comedy that rules. Shakespeare's clowns are served exceptionally well by this swift, energetic production. They are the highlight. Ross Williams,  as Bottom  the Weaver,  is ebullient and charismatic.

Williams' comic and dramatic skills are evident as he plays Bottom transformed into a donkey, Bottom dominating the tradesmen's rehearsals and Bottom being seduced by the Fairy Queen, Titania.  (Kate Langworthy)

The other highlight is Brendan O'Connor  who is a marvellously acrobatic and mischievous Puck.  He charms the audience with his impishness and boundless energy.

The entire cast is delightful and most double as royals and tradies. As the two lovers, Demetrius  and Lysander,  Anthony Rive  and Philip Cameron-Smith  make a fine comic duo. They integrate contemporary language and songs into the Shakespearian dialogue

 As their female counterparts, Hermia  and Helena  Marissa Warrington  and Clare Danaher  are both very funny and play their girlish rivalry with a modern tilt.  Danaher plays Helena as a sporty, leggy, goofy gal who is a fine comic foil to Warrington's petite Kylie Minogue pertness.

Directors, Elston and Greg Carroll,  maintain a snappy pace so there is not time to tire of Shakespeare if you are unaccustomed to it.

Kevin Hopkins  reprises his roles as the Duke and Oberon, Fairy King.  His presence is commanding. As his Fairy Queen and Duchess, Langworthy manages to be both statuesque and playful.

If you do not know the story it goes like this. Hermia and Lysander want to marry but Hermia is betrothed to Demetrius who also adores her. Helen loves Demetrius. They all end up lost in the woods. Meanwhile, the tradesmen are rehearsing a play for the Duke's wedding in the woods. The Fairy King and Queen are rowing so Oberon, with his Puck, plays tricks on the humans for sport.

The acrobatic fairies ( Laura and Rachel Kmetko  bring howls of delight from the audience and the vivid lighting of the trees still takes our childish breath away.

By Kate Herbert

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