Upon entering Sydney's Pop Up Globe, you are immediately struck by the impressive space. The three-level temporary structure has a 900 person capacity and is reported to replicate the dimensions of Shakespeare's second Globe Theatre, built in 1614 after the original Globe burnt down, to within around six inches of accuracy.
Originating in Auckland, New Zealand in 2016 to mark the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the Pop Up Globe has been designed to transport audiences back in time to experience Shakespeare's works in the space for which they were written. Following on from its international debut in Melbourne in 2017, the Sydney Pop Up Globe features a new interior with a larger stage, new Jacobean stage front, two balconies and a new ceiling depicting "the Heavens".
The theatre is open-air and the cheapest "seats" are actually for those standing up, called "Groundlings", in the uncovered yard right in front of the stage. On a sunny day, this area is in full sunlight and conversely if it rains the groundlings will get wet. However the benefit of the yard area, if you have the stamina to stand up for over two hours, is that you are very close to the action and may even have a chance to interact with the actors as they come and go. Furthermore, you will almost certainly be a target, whether you like it or not, for any fake blood or other fluids involved in the performance.
For the less adventurous there are numerous other seating options in the tiered balconies - from A Reserve covered seats with backed chairs in front of the stage right through to D Reserve which are uncovered yard seats. Despite its size the theatre space feels intimate and no matter where you sit or stand you are never more than 15 metres from the action. Indeed our Lower Level seats, positioned in the fourth row, still felt very close to the stage and surprisingly, a number of audience members in our row were also splattered by the aforementioned fake blood at the end of the play.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is given a unique re-imagining by director Miles Gregory of the Buckingham Company. While the Athenian lovers of Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius are all played by men as was usual in Shakespeare's time, and all wear traditional costumes, the scenes featuring the Mechanicals and the fairies are quite unusual.
The Mechanicals are cast as modern-day tradies sporting work boots, hi-vis vests and hard hats. Yet more unusual still are the roles of the fairies, Oberon, Puck and Titania, who are transformed into Maori spirits and who speak most of their dialogue in the Maori language. It is an unusual re-telling which helps to heighten the clashing of the play's three worlds.
The action is fast-paced, playful and physical and there is plenty of scope for audience participation, with the actors encouraging cheering, sighing and clapping from the crowd. The scenes featuring the Mechanicals are excellent for some comic relief and Chris Huntly-Turner shines as Bottom and quickly had the audience eating out of his hand.
Occasionally bawdy, often slapstick, and always enthusiastically played this is a modern performance for a 21st-century audience. While the surroundings may evoke the 17th Century, the Shakespearean dialogue is interspersed with contemporary references throughout. However for young audiences or those who aren't very familiar with this play the scenes featuring the fairies can be difficult to follow as the dialogue is almost entirely in Maori.
For me, the stand out performances were from Max Loban playing Hermia, Will Alexander playing Lysander and Chris Huntly-Turner playing Bottom.
The running time of this play is approximately 2.5 hours which includes a 15-minute interval.
A Midsummer Night's Dream can be seen at the Pop Up Globe in Sydney until 4th November 2018.
Sydney's Pop Up Globe in The Entertainment Quarter Moore Park