On a balmy summer’s eve, audiences were treated to a hilarious retelling of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Presented by Sheoak Productions, who last year delighted with their 1930s Hollywood re-imagining of Two Gentlemen of Verona, the company has returned with the goods in clever reproduction of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved tales.
Titled Midsummer, A Commedia dell’Arte adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream', the show provides exactly what the title offers. Staged within the Fairfield Amphitheatre, the natural acoustics allow for the un-amplified cast to lean into the language of Shakespeare’s text as it would have been done 400 years ago.
However, this is no traditional re-telling of the mismatched romance, fairies, and foolishness of yore. The team at Sheoak have turned the tables, setting the scene in fair Kings Cross, Sydney, 1983.
Between power suits, puffy hair, and parachute pants that make your eyes water, the costuming is phenomenal and whilst minimalist in nature due to the many costume changes, tells its own story of tulle and tracksuits.
The odd pairing of Shakespeare and the 1980s is only made more strange by the fact it is set in a gymnasium, yet somehow beyond all reason, the utter absurdity of the concept works perfectly. And with the addition of commedia dell’Arte, the entire production never misses a beat.
There are many companies that try to take on the 16th Century craft of masked comedy and characterisation, but Sheoak Productions go above and beyond, committing to their archetypes with such conviction, the absurd becomes absurdly funny.
The cast is small, and the five-piece ensemble play many roles within the narrative, my favourite being the combined character of Puck, who is played by each actor at one time and then as an extension of all five at once.
Jacqui Martin shines as the queen of the fairies, Titania and is outrageously funny as Snug, while Guy Talon grounds the production with his performance of Oberon. New addition, Jon Harris-Black is annoyingly on point as Bottom, his donkey impression is perfection. Seon Williams is so consistently funny, she is constantly scene stealing with her off the cuff looks, and reactions and is glorious to watch. But much props must be given to Scott Middleton who had me fighting back tears of hysteria, his performance of Wall will remain with me for many years (I hope).
Midsummer is so very much fun and is the perfect example of how brilliant independent theatre can be. It’s Shakespeare without pretence, classism, or anything that might make you steer clear of the bard’s work. It is joyful, silly, and exactly what we need, entertainment at its highest (and lowest) level.
Sheoak Productions presents
A Commedia dell'Arte adaptation of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
Director Mandy Ellison