Miserable and uninviting are the only words I can use to describe the weather last Saturday night; it was, in fact, the sort of weather that made me want to stay at home and not even put my big toe outside, let alone the rest of me. Wanting however to attend a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Centennial Park, I grudgingly bundled myself into the car and set off for a night of Shakespearian comedy under the stars (just because they were hidden by clouds doesn’t mean they weren’t there).
When I arrived at the Belvedere amphitheatre, a small but keen crowd (including children dressed as fairies) had already assembled in expectation of the evening’s performance. The audience had placed themselves around the stage and were happily munching and drinking their way through nibblies and wine (I had failed to bring supplies and could only look on with envy). This pre-play picnic was pleasantly accompanied by music from the Sydney Chamber Orchestra and the congenial atmosphere was enough to significantly improve my mood, if not the weather.
And so it was on this uninviting evening in Centennial Park that Night Sky Productions launched into an unforgettable opening night performance of Shakespeare’s well-loved romantic comedy. Just prior to ‘curtain up’, the child fairies in the audience were invited to participate in an ‘audition’, and one lucky girl (complete with wings) was chosen to take part later on in the performance. This was a very nice touch and added to the feeling that actors and audience were part of the same experience rather than being separate entities.
For those unfamiliar with the plot of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', the play portrays the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors who are unknowingly toyed with by some mischievous fairies. We witness the lovers and actors interactions with the Duke and Duchess of Athens, and follow them into the fairy inhabited moonlit forest where much of the play’s shenanigans take place. Lysander (Brendon McDonnall), who loves Hermia (Emily Ayoub), is made to fall in love with Helena (Beccy Iland), and so is Demetrius (Rhys Robinson) who is betrothed to Hermia. Oberon (Keith Agius) and Puck (Berynn Schwerdt) manipulate all of this chaos (both intentionally and accidentally) and the ensuing confusion amongst the lovers is truly hilarious. Centennial Park is indeed the perfect setting for this forest farce, and as the evening unfolds, you will feel that you have entered a magical realm where mere earthbound mortals are sport for fairies.
The company of nine actors, who share between them more than twenty parts, bring Shakespeare’s sparkling language to life with their wonderful acting, well-projected voices and ease of presentation. I couldn’t decide whether I was watching actors, who could dance and sing, or dancers who could sing and act, so competent and energetic were these performers in all areas. You will be amazed at the inventive brilliance of director Keith Agius and find yourself giggling hopelessly from the outset of the play until its final moments. The musicians also add to the charm of the evening by providing subtle and appropriate accompaniment to the play; the music, whilst being relatively inconspicuous, definitely adds to the overall success of the piece.
There are many factors that go towards making this play a success and if I were to list them all, both reader and writer would be here all day. Suffice to say that, even when it started raining quite heavily towards the end of the performance, the audience didn’t budge from their seats. On the contrary, they tolerated the increasingly uncomfortable conditions in order to follow the play through to its hilarious conclusion. So dear readers, I hope that you will do yourself a favour and get along to see this marvellously acted and directed piece of theatre. If clouds should be looming menacingly overhead, please don’t be deterred; any droplets of rain will probably just seem like part of some strange and enchanting mid-spring dream.
Night Sky Productions presents
A Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare
Venue: Belvedere Amphitheatre, Centennial Park
Dates: November 1 - 25, 2007
November 1st special fundraiser for SYDNEY CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.
Times: Friday, Saturday, Sunday @ 7.30pm
Tickets: $30 / $22 / children under 12 FREE!
Bookings: www.moshtix.com.au, 1300 GET TIX (438 849), all Moshtix outlets, or at the venue