Nestled within the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Australian Shakespeare Company present William Shakepeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This outdoor performance is the perfect way to spend a Melbourne summer evening enjoying a picnic with friends, surrounded by nature and being thoroughly entertained by the hijinks these Athenian residents and fairies find themselves in.
For those unaware, the plot follows the marriage between Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazon. However their marriage is put on hold when Egeus announces he want his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius, despite Hermia wanting to marry Lysander and Hermia's close friend Helen being desperately in love with Demetrius. Within the forest that these young lovers find themselves, Oberon, the King of the Fairies attempts to put Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, under a magic spell. Of course, things don't go quite according to plan and just who is supposed to be in love with who becomes one confusing and chaotic romantic comedy.
The entire cast do a brilliant job with their roles, with each taking on their numerous roles with gusto and commitment. Ash Flanders and Madeleine Somers in particular find the comedy in all the scenes they are in and keep that energy going right until the very end. Elizabeth Brennan and Joshua Orpin (marking his first professional acting gig) are nicely paired and the emotions of their characters are well explored and remain honest even when extreme. James Biasetto's triple performance of Oberon, Theseus and Quince - three very different characters - tests the limits of his ability and he does not disappoint. Similarly, Anna Burgess as Hippolyta is a joy to watch, particularly once the spell has been cast upon her.
Rather than solely focusing on the performers and the stage, the lighting design cleverly extends to the trees and bushes surrounding the stage. At one point the trees are all illuminated shades of purple, red and yellow bringing an etherealness to the scene. This is consistent throughout the show and is quite critical in creating the mood and setting the scenes for this outdoor performance.
There is an array of costumes on display with designer Karla Erenbots finding a way to bring contemporary and modern aesthetics in line with the more traditional garments of that time, while also maintaining an air of playfulness and whimsy. When the cast take their bows at the end of the performance, you can see just how well conceptualised these costumes are.
While A Midsummer Night's Dream was first performed over 400 years ago, once can safely assume the story is just as entertaining and engaging as it was back then. With some more contemporary and adult references sprinkled throughout, The Australian Shakespeare Company is on quite a winner with this production about that crazy little thing called love.
Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne - Southern Cross Lawn (enter via Observatory Gate opp the Shrine of Remembrance: Birdwood Avenue)
Season: until 3 February, 8:30pm | 8 February - 3 March, 8:00pm
Tickets: Full $50 | Concession/Student $45 | Child $25
Bookings: The Australian Shakespeare Company
Photo Credits: Nicole Cleary