A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Shakespeare's fantasy piece comes alive outdoors
In my view, Shakespeare's classic A Midsummer Night's Dream is best performed outdoors. With its fantasy tales of fairies and dreams, the best set for the production is created by trees and leaves, with the audio supplemented by the sound of bird calls. And that is why the Fairfield Amphitheatre is the perfect venue for the current production of this wonderful play.
We were lucky enough to have a delightful summer evening - with the sun hot enough to have pre-warmed the bluestone tiers of the amphitheatre through the day. A gentle breeze sprung up during the performance, tossing around the dandelion seed pods, and causing dragonflies to soar and swoop. A little later, the flying foxes could be seen heading out for their evening feed. It is a magical setting.
For those unfamiliar with the play, there are several sub-plots. It primarily centres around two men and two women. One woman, Hermia, is loved by two men; she has been promised to one, Demetrius, by her father, but wants to marry the other, Lysander. The other woman, Helena, is in love with Demetrius, but he only has eyes for Hermia. Faced with life as a nun if she doesn't follow her father's wishes, Hermia plots a scheme with Lysander to elope.
Enter the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, who are arguing. Waiting until Titania is asleep, Oberon has her enchanted with a magic potion that means she will fall in love with the first creature she sees when she wakes. Oberon's servant, Puck, comes upon a troupe of actors rehearsing in the forest, and transforms one of them, Nick Bottom, to have the head of an ass. Titania falls immediately in love with him upon awakening.
And so it goes, with the fairies meddling and bungling their way through an increasingly funny series of events.
There is a strong cast to carry out this production. It is a credit to the producers, GJ Production, that they have incorporated a blend of experienced and emerging actors.
Of particular note are Dom Westcott who is hilarious and completely over the top as the hapless Bottom. Reading in the program that this is his professional debut, having recently graduated from the National Theatre Drama School, I can only think there is a bright future ahead for him.
Bottom (Dom Westcott) becomes the object of Titania's affections
Jacqui Essing is delightful as the light-footed, mischievous, Puck.
Jacqui Essing is delightful as Puck
Kudos too to director Jack Wilkinson, who stepped in to the role of Oberon at relatively short notice due to the illness of a cast member.
With some 25 characters played by the 15 cast members, agile costume and character changes are the order of the day, and these are seamlessly executed.
The cast prepares to take a bow
While I have seen other productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, what I particularly liked about this one is that it offers unpretentious, accessible Shakespeare. As my partner Dave declared, 'I often have trouble following Shakespeare, but I had no difficulty this time'. The fact that the accents are unapologetically Aussie, rather than some schooled plummy English, gives the production a unique character that is easy to relate to.
So do make the time to come along and enjoy an entertaining couple of hours of theatre. Bring a blanket/cushions and perhaps some insect repellent. You are also welcome to bring a picnic, and can purchase beer, wine, cocktails and soft drinks on site (no BYO alcohol).
A Midsummer Night's Dream plays at the Fairfield Amphitheatre (near Fairfield Boathouse, off Heidelberg Road) at 8.00pm each night (except Monday) until Saturday 25th February. The box office is open from 7.00pm, and you can buy tickets at the door (subject to availability) or online by clicking here. Tickets are $30 full, $24 concession and $18 child under 16 years.
Note that in the event of a weather cancellation, ticket holders will be contacted by 4.00pm on the day of the performance, and given the opportunity to either select another night or receive a refund.
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