Review by Benjamin Lamb
It’s hard to fathom that the work of Shakespeare is still living on over 400 years after its creation, there have been several parodies, incarnations and tributes to the work of the great author, with the Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s version being the newest of the show that was created back in 1600.
For full enjoyment of the show, it’s almost required that you have some prior knowledge going in, there’s two plays going on at the one time, one surrounds the marriage of Thesus and Hippolyta, and the other focusing on six actors preparing and performing a play. These two plays alternate back and forth, with actors often breaking the fourth wall and using a great deal of physical and facial skills to help the younger audience understand what was happening, as it’s famously known that the work of Shakespeare uses a version of English that is not currently spoken, which makes it hard to follow. But the actors did do a great job in helping the crowd follow what was going on and getting the younger audience members involved.
The show sits apart from its father show in a number of different ways, one of the most outwardly clear being that Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s version incorporates some music, a selection of songs to help bring the show forward and emphasise certain moments. The entire cast was talented, and each excelled in their respective areas, but a notable highlight was performer Jackson McGovern, who played the character Bottom, with each line delivered he stole the show and had the crowd in stiches.
His approach to the at-times complicated Shakespeare written character was impeccable, and he performed a song as the play concluded, which was arguably the best moment of the 90-minute show. The play really seemed to kick into gear during this last act, when the group of actors put on their play, it’s clearly a moment that the cast loved to perform, and the energy was infectious, and put the audience in a great mood.
The only unfortunate downfall was the stage setup, holding it in late February and early March means beautiful afternoons, and it was great to watch a show outside, but due to a number of audience members using high back chairs and sitting at the front of the stage, it made it difficult to see what was occurring at some points. So, if you’re taking a picnic blanket make sure you get there early and sit as close as you can. it may have been more beneficial for the play to take place in the middle of the crowd, and audiences are able to set up picnic blankets around it. But that one minor inconvenience was definitely made up for with the high-quality talent and amazing approach to such a great piece of work.
You’d be hard pressed to find a group of people who are as talented and dedicated as the cast of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It’s playing at Central Park in Malvern until March 13.