Who would have thought Shakespeare could be so much fun? The brainchild of Dr. Miles Gregory, the Pop-Up Globe is a full-scale temporary working replica of the second Globe, built by Shakespeare and his company in 1614 after the first Globe theatre burnt down.
Originally created in Auckland, as a one-off to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Pop-Up Globe aimed at providing audiences with the immersive experience of seeing Shakespeare performed in the space for which it was written. So successful were the original seasons that the first international season was mounted in Melbourne in 2017, where again sell-out audiences couldn’t get enough of this unique and transformative experience.
The Pop-Up Globe has now been installed in the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney where, over the next three months, two full companies, The Buckingham and The Southampton, will perform productions of four of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in the style of the original stagings, in repertory. The four plays are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Comedy of Errors, Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.
The Sydney season opened with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A riotous, bawdy interpretation directed by Miles Gregory for The Buckingham’s. For this production, as was usual in Shakespeare’s time, the female roles of Helena, Hermia and a delightfully rotund Titania, were played by men, (Thomas Wingfield, Max Loban and Asalema Tofete respectively), who, while assiduously avoiding the temptation to camp up their roles, found plenty of nuances in their lines with which to convulse their knowing audience.
Gregory imagined his Mechanicals as contemporary tradies, led by lanky Chris Huntly-Turner as Bottom, and a female actor, Sarah Griffin, as Flute, all complete with high-vis jackets and hard hats. It made sense and worked a treat. But more unusually, Gregory has cast his fairies as Maori gods who speak te reo Maori, in a translation by Pierre Lyndon.
A masterstroke, for although the words may have been intelligible to most of the audience, the performance of them by Jason Te Kare, (Oberon), Asalema Tofete, (Titania) and especially Jade Daniels, quite magical as Puck, imbued the production with a charming mystical quality, their meaning quite obvious.
Confident, exuberant performances from all the cast, most of whom play at least two roles, together with excellent costuming and production values ensure a wonderfully entertaining evening, but it’s the unique environment of the Pop-Up Globe which makes this production such a memorable experience.
Whether you enjoy a performance in the comparative comfort of seated tiered balconies, or standing among the more adventurous “groundlings”, mosh-pit style in front of the stage, dodging blood, missiles and fleeing actors – experiencing a performance of a Shakespeare play in this environment really is something not to be missed.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Pop-Up Globe, Sydney Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Performance: Wednesday 5 September 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 4 November 2018
Information and Bookings: www.popupglobe.com.au
Image: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – photo by Jay Wennington
Review: Bill Stephens OAM