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A Midsummer’s Night Dream: Monash Shakespeare Company

Not a moment is lost in this beautiful, hilarious and contemporary reworking of William Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Audience members are ushered to either side of a traverse stage where cast members, fully in character, sit illuminated in a tranquil orange glow that gives the genuine feel of a midsummer night. This introduction reveals character relationships in a simple, summery preamble as they romantically entwine, play together or even eat alone while browsing their phones before lighting up the stage with acting that is animated, lively and that will without a doubt have the audience in stitches by the end of the first act.

Whether the focus of the scene or simply in the background, the performers act and react perfectly to every twist and turn of the play. Keen spectators whose eyesight wanders to characters that aren’t at the centre of the action will be rewarded with just as much comedy as those whose gaze is kept on the actors who sit at the heart of the scene. The way these scenes play out is enrapturing, with the tone and timing with which each character delivers their Shakespearean lines perfect and without a single missed beat. This, combined with profoundly visual style of acting, creates moments of absurd amusement from Lysander and Demetrius’ grabby yet interchangeable lusting pursuits of both Hermia and Helena, to Hermia and Helena’s hyperbolically emotive reactions to being the objects of this lust. In addition to this, there is the faeries sprightly and fleeting intrusion into the affairs of mortals, their masters playing it straight and keeping them in line, and finally Bottom’s highly energetic performance that despite his fellow player’s talents, steals every scene with its pure vitality and dynamism. All of these in combination will ensure that you are kept on your toes and never grow bored for an instant.

The traverse seating of the theatre creates an open space that feels less alienating than a usual setup. This is in turn helped by the lighting, which creates a magical atmosphere of green and purple for the other worldly scenes, but also hits a perfect summer orange when the setting is more earthly. Costumes are contemporary and the school uniforms really establish the subsidiary role of the fairies to their lords, and the youth of the other characters.

This version of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is at its core, truly entertaining. With comedic variances from a slapstick fairy monologue where she prances around screaming, to a wall in the final scene that delivers perfect deadpan. So many forms of comedy make their presence known here and every actor, direction and technical aspect hits its mark flawlessly. Shakespeare can be hard to get right in a modern sphere, but this play succeeds on all accounts.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream is showing until the 7th of June @ the MUST Space, Campus Centre
Tickets via TryBooking

Sam Keenan

The author Sam Keenan

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