A Midsummer Night’s Dream

QB A Midsummer Night’s Dream photo by David KellyIt was a wonderful opening night performance filled with enchantment, mischief and mayhem. Before the curtain rose, the whimsical sounds of the woodwinds signalled the magic which was to come.

The famed Shakespearean comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been transformed into an enchanted ballet. Whilst the story is simplified, this delightful adaptation brings to balletic life the plot and subplots of the original play.

Without the playwright, the composer and the choreographer, this magical performance would not have been possible. William Shakespeare. Felix Mendelssohn. Liam Scarlett.

Obviously, they never met as all three passed away in different centuries. However, their combined legacy lives on in this production. The ageless and cohesive force of beautiful, different art genres by gifted creatives is clearly demonstrated.

Originally, this was a joint production by Queensland Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet. Some crucial artistic interpretations in the modern context were required and successfully carried out to make the production work as a ballet of this length.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was curated by former Artistic Director, Li Cunxin AO. It is the first Queensland Ballet production performed at Queensland Performing Arts Centre under the artistic directorship of Li’s successor, Leanne Benjamin OBE AM.

QB A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3 photo by David KellyFull credit to the creative team: Stager, Laura Morera, Costume and set Designer, Tracy Grant Lord and Lighting Designer, Kendall Smith. Working within the confines of the smaller, Playhouse Theatre, together, they wove wonder with blue hues and a fairytale forest complete with bridge, staircase and a forest setting. There were no set changes.

Costumes were superb. I was especially fascinated by the long coat worn by Oberon (Joel Woellner). The athleticism, physique and technique of a male principal are always magnificent, but that coat with its mesmerising colour and cut added another aesthetically beautiful element.

I was so amazed watching how a male dancer can swirl and twirl a garment with all the precision and grace of a ballerina that I was disappointed when later it re-emerged in shorter form. Meanwhile, Titania’s luminescent white dress glittered like a star.

As expected the principal dancers on opening night, Joel as Oberon and Lucy Green as Titania were outstanding and ideally cast as a royal couple.

Their disagreement over keeping the darling changeling (Oscar Ziolek) led to discord. Interestingly, the sweet changeling in his teddy bear onesie was ultimately unchanged.

Titania took the changeling. Oberon feeling punitive, looked on as Titania ‘humiliated’ herself in her bewitched relationship with Bottom, the donkey.

If Oberon viewed that as a punitive success, my perspective differed. I thought their interactions were adorable. Bottom (Rian Thompson) was incredibly cute and loveable. Rian never fails to completely and endearingly immerse himself in any character he is assigned.

Another dancer who is an expert at character immersion is Georgia Swan. A comedic audience delight, she was perfect as Helena the explorer in her clumsy, confused, lovestruck role.

QB A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2 photo by David Kelly On this evening, I would credit Puck (Kohei Iwamoto) with having stole the show. Puck was more a mischievous elf than fairy (and probably a failed apprentice to Oberon) but what a performance by a single dancer!

Simultaneously, Kohei blended in and then suddenly stood out. Energetically, he bounded around the stage like a gymnast as he wreaked confusion and havoc with his magic.

In the smaller theatre, our state chamber orchestra, Camerata, conducted by Nigel Gaynor. Camerata sounded like a full orchestra. As always, they were flawless.

I was somewhat surprised that this opening night performance didn’t get a standing ovation. This is a production for all ages. Children would be enchanted.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Playhouse Theatre – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Friday 12 April 2024
Season continues to 27 April 2024
Bookings: www.qpac.com.au

For more information, visit: www.queenslandballet.com.au for details.

Images: Queensland Ballet presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream – photos by David Kelly

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan