Friday, 19 September 2014

The Dream, Bell Shakespeare, Sept 19, 2014 ****

By William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, Sept 19 to Aug 4, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Mon 22 Sept). KH 

 Ray Chong Nee & Julie Forsyth; Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

If Julie Forsyth did an ad for soap powder I’d fall over myself to see it, so it is theatrical bliss to see her play the mischievous Puck in Peter Evans’ riotous production of The Dream.

In Evans’ abbreviated, 90 minute version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Forsyth is accompanied on stage by a versatile cast including Richard Piper, another gifted performer of both comic and dramatic roles.

With an evocative slatted, wooden design (Teresa Negroponte) and swift, seamless scene changes, the stage is transformed and we are transported from the court of the Duke (Ray Chong Nee) to the forbidding, enchanted forest inhabited by Fairy King Oberon (Chong Nee) and his Queen Titania (Janine Watson).

Evans transposes Shakespeare’s first scenes, opening with the inimitable comedy of the amateur actors/tradesmen (known as the Mechanicals) planning to perform their unwittingly comical version of the tragic-romantic tale of lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe.

In this dynamic, inventive, deftly directed production, the actors play multiple roles, transforming themselves physically and vocally as they shift swiftly between characters.

Julie Forsyth gives an exquisitely joyful performance, playing Puck with impish glee, creating a complex character with her expressively malleable, putty face, inspired comic choices, impeccable timing and effortless shifts between comic and dramatic scenes.

Piper steals the opening scene with his consummate comic skill and uproarious, bullyboy bravado as Bottom The Weaver, the best-worst amateur actor who demands to play every role.

In the final, sidesplitting scene, the cheerfully incompetent Mechanicals present their shambolic play that is riddled with absurd errors, missing props, bad wigs, boys in drag, forgotten lines, missed cues and Piper’s interminable and hilarious death scene as Pyramus.

A highlight is the scrappy, physical squabble between the lusty love rivals, Lysander (Gareth Reeves) and Demetrius (Johnny Carr), and the jealous catfight between Hermia (Lucy Honigman) and Helena (Nikki Shiels), all of whom are enchanted by Puck’s rascally love charm.

The amoral and egotistical fairies, Oberon and Titania, suffer the same foolish, romantic problems as the mortals, being plagued by irrational jealousy, the fickleness of love, self-interest, lust, rage and frustration.

Atmospheric lighting (Rachel Burke) and unobtrusive music (Caitlin Porter) exaggerate the darkness of all the characters’ emotions, their visions and fears of the grim night.

Evans’ pared down and wildly entertaining production embodies the larrikin nature of Shakespeare’s comedies but also underscores the sinister, threatening elements in Shakespeare’s supernatural and mortal worlds.

By Kate Herbert
Richard Piper, Johnny Carr, Ray Chong Nee; Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Theseus Oberon Flute: Ray Chong Nee
Hippolyta Titania Quince: Janine Watson
Bottom Egeus: Richard Piper
Helena Starveling: Nikki Shiels
Demetrius Snout: Johnny Carr
Hermia Snug: Lucy Honigman
Lysander Mechanical: Gareth Reeves

Director: Peter Evans
Design: Teresa Negroponte
Lighting: Rachel Burke
Sound design: Caitlin Porter
Movement director: Nigel Poulton

No comments:

Post a Comment