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Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Belvedere Amphitheatre

Review by Anja Bless 

Presented by the original ‘Shakespeare in the park’ team, the Australian Shakespeare Company, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is now showing at Belvedere Amphitheatre in Centennial Park. And attendees of this raucous and expert rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most adored comedies will certainly not be ‘ill met by moonlight’. 

In celebration of Australian Shakespeare Company’s 35th anniversary they are returning to where it all began, with fairies and cupid’s arrow causing mischief in the forests of Athens. Directed by Glenn Elston OAM, this production of Midsummer hits all the right notes. It is fun, loud, and cheeky. Playing up the melodrama and bringing in more modern sensibilities in its humour and flexible gender casting. Belvedere Amphitheatre is particularly apt for the Athenian setting, with the backdrop of Centennial Park (beautifully lit by production manager, Peter Amesbury) truly giving the impression of being transported into a fairy forest. 

The king and queen of this fairy kingdom, Oberon (Hugh Sexton) and Titania (Nicole Nabout) command control of the stage and its players, exuding the power and fun of their characters. Likewise in their mirroring roles as Theseus and Hippolyta, Sexton and Nabout’s confidence on stage highlights their professionalism and expertise with Shakespeare and his verse. Other noteworthy performances include Alex Cooper as Lysander/Tom Snout. Cooper’s portrayal of Lysander’s change of heart for Helena had many of the audience in tears with his physical and exuberant comedic style. Tane Williams Accra (Demetrius/Robin Starveling) must also be applauded for his combination of athleticism, energy and comedic timing. Translating Shakespearean humour to an audience with a wide range of ages can be a challenge, but it was one the cast took on admirably. A notable mention must also be given to Madeleine Somers for her quick wit as Peter Quince. 

However, there was opportunity to draw more from some of the most fun and famous roles. While Bottom (Elizabeth Brennan) had some notable comedic moments, especially following his transformation to an ass, the bloke-ish, red bull drinking characterisation given by Brennan did not always feel at home with Bottom’s nature. Likewise, Puck (Jonathon Freeman) is a most coveted role, and there were times where Freeman drew out his roguish nature but did not quite manage to draw the audience in as Puck might be expected to. Olivia McLeod was the perfect Hermia, romantic and ferocious when scorned, however next to her Larissa Teale’s Helena began to feel too one-note. 

Nonetheless, the cast were captivating in their movement and energy. The choreography by Sue-Ellen Shook is exceptional. With fantastic stage combat and acrobatics, paired with movement that helped bring the fairy magic to life. The energy and dynamism given by this choreography certainly motivated the audience through a chilly autumn evening. And while the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe by the workmen players was as enjoyable as ever, ad-libbing and gags beyond the script did drag the performance longer than was needed given the outdoor setting. 

Although this rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream may not have hit every mark to perfection, it is nonetheless an accessible, highly enjoyable, and truly magical portrayal. Making for an enchanting and joyous escape into another world hidden away in the parkland. 

Image Supplied


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