Filled with magic and laughter, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has become one of my favourite productions from the Theatre Arts Society.
A bold statement, I know. But I think the interwoven stories, magical sets, and variety of excellent comedy combined to make a show that I enjoyed every minute of.
With my limited Shakespeare knowledge, I had only a vague idea of the story and found myself having to clarify things at first. Despite this, director Elise Roberts and assistant director Angelina Harvey did an excellent job of easing any unknowing audience members in. And once the show was underway, I laughed along with the rest of the crowd and lost track of time in a way that felt like true fairies were at work.
The performances had the room swelling with laughter, with each actor doing their best to bring the characters to life as the chaos of the plot unfolded. Lois Collins and Nathan Francis made a touching pair as Hermia and Lysander, with Corey Lee and Makenna Cooley completing the quartet as Helena and Demetrius, throwing the lovers off-kilter after the cheeky, meddlesome fairy Puck’s (Lou Clement) involvement. Camille Derenne was a dreamy and regal Titania, balancing Alice Bain’s wickedness as Oberon.
Even with a few small slip ups with the dialogue – which is bound to happen with Shakespeare’s tongue-twistery – the actors remained steady and delivered the show on a sparkling silver platter. I’m certain that every member of the audience laughed at least once, particularly with one of the last scenes that saw the ‘male’ troupe finally perform the play they’d been bickering over throughout, which incorporated appropriately exaggerated physical theatre. Even in the tense scenes, the actors found ways to work some laughter in, which summated in a light-hearted and jovial atmosphere.
A large part of the show’s appeal for me were the visual elements, which perfectly encapsulated the fantasy, old-timey feel. The team’s set was gorgeous, with twinkling fairy lights, an abundance of flowers, and ancient greek-style columns, complete with some ivy dangling from the ceiling. But the costume designs by Nifemi Wilson-Adu and Charley Thomas were simply stunning.
The magical aura of the fairies was captured perfectly, particularly with the fairy queen and king’s contrasting floral gown and darker autumn hues. There were touches of leaves and petals blooming along the other fairies’ outfits, gold threads on the “Athenian” waistcoats, and wonderfully scruffy beards on the ‘male’ performers. The costumes for the Athenian youths also seemed tailored specifically to their whimsical, sharp and sweet personalities in a perfect fit.
Just as carefully curated as the costumes were the lighting arrangements, which, once again, were probably my favourite I’ve seen in the theatre before. Eben McCarthy is a name you might recognise from the various other TAS productions he’s been involved in, and he’s certainly received high praise. Fairy lights winked delicately from between the flowers, and the wall backlit loving, tense, or mysterious scenes with the appropriate colours to fit the moods. In a stroke of genius, Eben used a single spotlight to artfully represent the moon in a simple but bright orb, glowing overhead while Puck meddled beneath.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of those shows that we’ve all probably heard of, even if we haven’t seen it. But if it’s anything like the latest triumph from TAS, you can bet I’d rush to see it again.