A Midsummer Nights Dream
Unveiling the Modern Magic of Shakespeare in Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens
Reviewed by Brendan Daynes
Under the celestial canopy of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, The Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a timeless spectacle that transcends the confines of time itself. This production is a fresh and fun reimagining of the classic Shakespearean comedy, inviting audiences on a riotous ride through the interwoven world of lovers, fairies, and fools.
Artistic Director Glenn Elston’s vision for the play is evident as the gardens come alive at night and the audience is immersed in a magical radiance that exceeds even the most vivid imaginings. The experience is more than just a play; it’s an enchanting journey into nature and art, unbound by the walls of a conventional theatre. The synergy between the open-air setting and the timeless narrative creates a unique atmosphere that is utterly captivating.
The production’s modern twist is immediately apparent in the costumes and props, which seamlessly blend the traditional with the contemporary. The inventive and minimal approach to the set design enhances the whimsical charm of Shakespeare’s comedy. This marriage of classic and modern elements not only makes the play feel current but also showcases the production team’s commitment to elevating the audience’s experience.
The cast, led by Nicole Nabout as Titania and Hugh Sexton as Oberon, delivers stellar performances that embody the essence of Shakespearean comedy. The chemistry between the actors is undeniable, especially during the moments of mistaken identity and romantic entanglements. Larissa Teale as Helena, Olivia McLeod as Hermia, Tane Williams as Demetrius, and Alex Cooper as Lysander form a quartet of runaway lovers whose comedic timing and delivery are impeccable.
However, it is the character of Puck, played with mischievous delight by Syd Brisbane, that steals the spotlight. Puck’s antics and magical interventions drive the plot’s humorous twists, and Brisbane’s energetic and charismatic portrayal brings the character to life with an infectious enthusiasm.
The ensemble cast, comprised of skilled actors such as Elizabeth Brennan, Madeleine Somers, Jackson McGovern, Henny Walters, Fletcher O’Leary, Claire Duncan, and Cierra Shook, showcases the depth of talent. Each actor, whether portraying a fairy or a tradesman, contributes to the laughter and merriment that defines the essence of Shakespearean comedy. The commitment and skill exhibited by the cast are especially noteworthy, considering the production spans over two hours. The actors’ unwavering dedication to their roles, their physicality and expressiveness further emphasise the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s comedic genius and contribute to the overall success of the performance.
As the night unfolds under the stars, the thematic relevance to the human condition becomes apparent. Love triangles, mistaken identities, and transformative experiences, all masterfully woven into the narrative, highlight the universal aspects of human relationships.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a triumph of creativity and skill. This fresh and fun interpretation of a classic is not just a play; it’s a great night out for the whole family. The fantastic production value, modern aesthetic, and the unwavering commitment of the cast make this rendition of Shakespearean comedy a must-see. Under the stars and amidst the enchanting beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens, this production invites you to revel in the magic of love, laughter, and the enduring genius of William Shakespeare.
A MIdsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Southern Cross Lawn at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne until 17th February. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit https://www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au/productions/under-the-stars-a-midsummer-nights-dream