Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ***

By William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Where and When: Botanical Gardens, Observatory Gate, until March 13
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Will Shakespeare used bawdy language and characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in other plays. Glenn Elston’s production ratchets up the innuendo a notch to give this Shakespeare under the stars production an even more raunchy edge. Nothing nasty – just good fun.

This the 21st year of Shakespeare in the Botanical Gardens and this entertaining production once more brings Shakespeare to an audience that might not ever see it in the theatre. The Dream is the perfect choice for outdoors. It is a romantic comedy – known as Rom-Coms in Hollywood. It is a delicious blend of love, slapstick and magic all embedded in toffy Shakespeare language with contemporary references tossed into the mix to make you feel at home.

There are doting and jealous lovers, macho rivalry and even a girl fight. Then come the mad, slapstick tradesmen-clowns doing hilariously bad, amateur theatre for the Duke (Hugh Sexton) and his wife (Josephine Bloom). Throw in some acrobatic fairies, a sexy Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Shireen Morris) and her bellowing, muscular hubby, Oberon (Kevin Hopkins) and you have a recipe for a slightly arty picnic on a warm night.

The highlight, as usual, is the amateur dramatics and Brendan O’Connor, as Bottom the Weaver, is a hit. O’Connor’s Bottom (no pun intended) is athletic, conceited, incompetent and deluded about his talent. His character grabs the limelight and delivers every line with pompous histrionics but the peak is O’Connor’s interminable death scene that had the crowd cheering. Have a bottle of wine first. It will be even funnier.

He is ably accompanied by the ensemble of clowns, all of them being double cast in other roles. Andrew Bongiorno plays Lysander as a showy rap artist and Anthony Rive makes Demetrius a poncy boy scout. Olivia Simone is a sassy Hermia and Terri Brabon has fun playing Helena as a plain Jane with appalling dress sense. Adam Pedicini is an acrobatic and perky Puck although he is more comfortable physically than vocally.

Pick a warm, dry evening, pack a bottle of wine and some sangers and enjoy a night with the Bard under the stars. The Gardens look spectacular under theatre lights – and so do the possums.

By Kate Herbert

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