Saturday, 27 July 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Queanbeyan City Council, The Q

It's been a while since a major amateur company in Canberra put on a Shakespeare production - the last I can think of is Everyman's "Richard III", which was back in 2010. I don't know whether it's the regular visits from Bell Shakespeare or the belief that Shakespeare is a difficult writer, but never the less, there's been a bit of a hiatus in productions since ANU's Paper Moon company put the brakes on in 2008. 

Fortunately, the Bard is eternal (he's also out of copyright) and so he's back, with director Jordan Best compiling a strong cast to give Shakespeare's comedy of love and magic a strong theatrical form. There's a little bit of unnecessary framing device (the songs at the beginning and end, in particular -it doesn't help that there's still an audible clicktrack in the backing tape), but otherwise this is a straight-down the line delivery of Shakesperean comedy.

Which is not to say there's anything by the numbers in this production - this is inventive, clever work on several levels. The foundation of any Midsummer Night's Dream is the four lovers in the middle of the story, and in this case, there's superlative work, in particular from Jenna Roberts, whose glorious indignation whether she's being romantically ignored or romantically pursued is constantly delightful; some great caddish disdain from Duncan Driver accompanies her. It takes Rachael Clapham and Chris Zuber a little longer to find their groove (as people who have basically found their romantic partner at the beginning of the play, there's not quite as much to get into) but certainly Clapham's increasing irritation at the unlikely proceedings before her in the second half grab all their laughs. Chris Zuber's Lysander is a bit more worthily staunch, but he's handsome enough to make any lady want to run off to the woods with him, and keeps Lysander not-too-bright entertainingly.

On the fairy level, Dave Evans is a hyperactive Puck (possibly a little bit too much so - there's a few moments when he gabbles lines), Tim Sekuless and Alison McGregor combine imperiousness and strangeness as Oberon and Titania respectively, fairy attendants Michelle Cooper, Alex McPherson and Carly Savona combine beauty and grace of movement, and Erin Pugh's oppressed Moth is adorable and funny (her Philostrate in the court scenes is snobbishly hilarious, too).

In the Mechanicals corner, Shakespeare's satire on amateur theatre plays delighfully, with plenty of physical shenanigans going on throughout. When the worst you can say is that David Clapham as Starveling is slightly under-used (and that's because I remember how damn good Clapham can be), it's a compliment to the whole thing - Cannell's Quince is delightfully pedantic and annoyed, Cameron Thomas' Bottom delivers several pounds of ham, Ruffy's Snug goes from shy reluctance to superenthusiastic lion with aplomb, Liz Bradley's Snout brings grumpiness and potential violence, and Brendan Kelly's Flute is sweet, clear and enthusiastic.

As for the technicals - Wayne Shepherd's set is fine, if more decorative than necessarily useful most of the time, and requires better lighting than it gets from Owen Horton for full effect. The range of costumes from Cate Ruth, Emma Sekuless and Miriam Miley Read, together with the elabourate jewellery and wing designs by Mia Ching and Ann McMahon, are absolutely gorgeous.  

All in all, this is a fine reading of the play, capturing the humour and magic of the text. 

1 comment:

  1. Matches all the other glowing reviews, and definitely more engaged with the production than Helen Musa's irrelevant criticism in CityNews.
    I'm starting up my own, non-review blog here, if you're interested.