A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Directed by Timothy Sekuless. Shakespeare by the Lakes. February 16. Kambri Amphitheatre. Australian National University. Further details: Lakespeare.com
Shakespeare's contemporary, Thomas Heywood classified A Midsummer Night's Dream as a romantic comedy that offers "harmless mirth", "sport" and the refreshing of "such weary spirits as are tired with labours or study". Lakespeare's third free open air production of Shakespearian comedies offered audiences crowded onto the Kambri amphitheatre at the ANU a feast of sheer delight with mirth and laughter, rollicking comedy and delightful confusions. Timothy Sekuless directs his talented and energetic youthful cast with flair.
The course of true love never did run smooth and in this production an audience is treated to a swathe of merriment and mayhem as Oberon (Heidi Silberman) and Titania (Katerina Smalley) vie for possession of the changeling boy, and lovers Demetrius (Tom Cullen), Lysander (Liam Jones), Helena (Anneka van der Velde) and Hermia (Marni Mount) run the bewildering gamut of mismatched mischief, caused by a somewhat simpleton Puck (Helen Way).
With a picturesque backdrop of weeping willows gracing the banks of the creek that runs by the amphitheatre, and under a warm summer sun, Lakespeare's fresh and imaginative staging of Shakespeare's popular comedy of love's confusions and human folly bursts with exuberance. Shakespeare's text leaps on the tongues of a wonderfully alive cast who delight the audience with contemporary reference, interactive business and boundless energy.
The course of true love never did run smooth and in this production an audience is treated to a swathe of merriment and mayhem.
In short, this is the most refreshing live performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream that I have seen in a very long time. It is partly attributed to the very clever doubling up of characters and the skilful editing of the text and elimination of certain characters. Fiona Victoria Hopkins's brilliantly created costumes help to differentiate the roles. It all works well with the audience taking on a passive role as Titania's fairies. I was somewhat confused when Bottom (Oliver Bailey ) returns to the mechanicals with the ass's head still in situ, and the merging of the roles of Oberon and Theseus and Titania and Hippolyta in the final court scene. All that is required is a momentary willing suspension of disbelief.
The challenge to enliven the delight in the play's play within a play, showing the lamentable tale of Pyramus and Thisbe performed by even more lamentably inept actors is boldly and riotously accomplished by original invention and hilarious physicality. Though essentially a romantic comedy of fantasy and frolic, Shakespeare is no stranger to critical comedy and the biting sting of satire. The play's initial mockery of the antiquated laws of the Athenian state and a father's unquestioned control of a daughter set the scene for Hermia and Lysander's elopement. All's well that ends well and the Kambri audience gave the cast and Lakespeare their hands in unanimous acclaim.
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