For the first time in over 10 years, Bell Shakespeare will present a main-stage version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring Richard Piper, Julie Forsyth, Ray Chong Nee and Janine Watson, showing in Canberra, Melbourne and Wollongong.
Directed by Bell Shakespeare’s Co-Artistic Director Peter Evans, his 90-minute account of this classic romantic comedy, called The Dream, is a highly physical, truly transformative production that sees eight actors playing multiple characters in a madcap demonstration of inventive stagecraft.
One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream deals with the universal theme of love and its darker excesses; lust, confusion and disappointment. It follows the adventures of four star-crossed lovers (Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius), a disgruntled father, a duke and duchess, woodland fairies (Oberon and Titania) and a mischievous fairy servant (Puck).
Taking place in a mythical Athens and an enchanted forest outside its walls, an additional satirical tale introduces another set of characters; a group of amateur actors known as The Mechanicals, who stumble into the same mystical woods to rehearse a play called Pyramus and Thisbe.
“I want to remind people how funny this play is and how dark it is; Shakespeare’s observation on the fickleness of love and the irrationality of love is really dark.” said Evans. “And the central four-hander between the four lovers is one of the greatest scenes ever written.”
While many will know this story well, Evans’ fresh approach focuses on the play within the play, bringing out the madness and the cleverness of Shakespeare’s writing. The Dream begins with the third scene, where the amateur actors are rehearsing. Uncovering all the magic, mayhem and romance of this story, Evans plays on the illusion of theatre and performance itself, with the assistance of Movement Director Nigel Poulton.
“It’s a celebration of theatre; a play within a play, three different worlds, three different styles of plays, that work seamlessly together. It’s a very warm and generous play, with silliness and seriousness,” said Evans. “It’s a privilege to work on one of Shakespeare’s most-loved plays.”
The Dream is currently at the Canberra Theatre Centre until 13 September, then plays Arts Centre Melbourne, 19 September – 4 October 2014 and Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, 8 – 11 October 2014. For more information, visit: www.bellshakespeare.com.au for details.
Image: Julie Forsyth and Ray Chong Nee play in The Dream – courtesy of Bell Shakespeare