Monday, 19 July 2004

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bell Shakespeare, July 19, 2004

A Midsummer Night's Dream  
by William Shakespeare
Bell Shakespeare Company
Alexander Theatre, Monash University, July 19, 200, touring show
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Bell Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night's Dream captures the playful quality of the play.

Anna Volska, directs with flair Shakespeare's jaunty and popular comedy about love.

She places it on Jennie Tate's design of a round and empty stage space defined by enormous lengths of sheer white curtaining.

Characters appear and disappear through them, secrete themselves between their layers and create fairy bowers from swathes of fabric.

Most of the ensemble plays multiple roles. They are members of the Duke Theseus' court, (Luciano Martucci) of Titania's fairy tribe, (Michelle Doake) and of the group of tradesmen.

All three worlds are clearly delineated by both character and action.

Shakespeare employed every trick of the comedy-romance genre to entertain his audience.

We see confused identities, magical transformation, love potion, thwarted lovers and strange bedfellows.

But it is a love story on many levels. The Duke will marry Hipppolyta. Two other pairs of lovers must through trials in the fairy forest before their love interests are fulfilled.

Titania, and her Fairy King, Oberon, ( Martucci) are at odds and he taunts her with his magic and causes her to be infatuated with Bottom, the Weaver, (Mark Brady) who is transformed into an ass.

Volska creates a dreamy magical simply staged world of love and magic. The scene in which the four lovers fight over who will love who is very funny.

Little Hermia (Georgia Adamson) confronts gangly Helena (Kate Box). 

Demetrius (Timothy Walter) and Lysander (Simon Bossell) who so loved Hermia, now entranced, struggle over which of them will have Helena.

The fairy bower scenes have a light airiness in the constant movement and childlikeness of the fairy community.

Martucci is a regal and classical Theseus and Oberon. Doake is passionate and provocative as Titania.

But the high point, as always in this play, is the final royal performance at the court by the mechanicals of their 'tragical comedy' about Pyramus and Thisbe

Mark Brady as the insufferably conceited Bottom, is a consummate clown and makes a feast of the role's comic potential.

As his loved one in the play, Timothy Walter meets his level of clowning with a supremely comical death scene.

The entire ensemble has enormous fun and plays the comedy with great skill.

This is a merry, accessible, charming and hilarious production.

LOOK FOR: The death scene of Pyramus and Thisbe.

By Kate Herbert

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