Coxhead Flat, Hamilton

14/02/2018 - 18/02/2018

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2018

Production Details


Love is in the air as Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena escape into the woods against the wishes of their families. However, the woods have other plans for the young lovers.

From Cook Island Māori writer/director Benny Marama comes a multi-lingual adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the classic story of love, magic and foolishness. With segments in English, Gagana fa’a Sāmoa and Te Reo Māori Kuki Airani, this modern reworking also features a cast primarily made up of Māori and Pasifika performers from around the Waikato.

Bring a plate to share, put on your Sunday best and join us for this unique production of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

Cox Head Flat
Wednesday 14 Feb, Thursday 15 Feb & Friday 16 Feb 2018, 7.30pm
Sunday 18 Feb, 4.00am
ADMISSION By gold coin donation

Theatre ,

Smooth interweaving of Pacifica elements

Review by Ross MacLeod 21st Feb 2018

When reading a phrase like ‘putting a Pacifica spin’ on a work of theatre conjures up the image of grass skirts and wooden drums, it’s a sad incitement of the casual racism that permeates our society. Sadder still that the words ‘Pacifica spin’ might well have turned people off going to this production of A Midsummer Night’s  Dream, because what they would have seen was a vibrant contemporary take on the classic work from a group of talented Maori and Pacific Island creators.

And it’s the contemporary part that I really love in the execution. Elements of the traditional Pacifica performance are there but it is the integration of these with the modern elements that really works for me; the social structures, the costumes and humour and the attitudes are from the heart of cultures not held back in the past, but aware and adapted to the future.

This becomes apparent from the moment Theseus and Hippolytaenter, with the bearing of a modern Polynesian patriarch. Frustrated father Egeus (played by director Benny Marama) greets his rulers with a formal introduction in his own tongue before dropping fluidly into Shakespearean English.  Even Egeus’s favour for one of his daughter’s suitors over the other is backed up in style, Demitrius more respectfully attired and Lysander in more casual skater clothes.

Traditional elements are woven smoothly into welcomes, enchantments, and song, never alienating the non-fluent audience members, the meanings still perfectly clear. Titania, her fairies, and her changeling, are the closest we get to ‘traditional’ costumes and they work in well with the feel.

Dual casting and gender switching the royal couples is an interesting choice, and both actors (Vasa Faaosofia as Theseus / Titania and Alex Pelham-Waerea as Hippolyta/ Oberon) have a solid stage presence, though it does feel a little like their human characters have a little stronger personalities than their fairy counterparts. My wife notes that the moment Titania appears on stage there is no doubt she is the queen.

Waiata-Rose Monga as Puck is a little less confident in the role. She has a good physicality but it doesn’t quite sync up with her vocal work. I think the intention here is to shake things up with a more bored, obstinate and clumsy Puck but it doesn’t hold up consistently throughout.

Cian Gardner makes a strong and confident Hermia, able to switch from sentimental to stern within a line. Opposite her, Wairehu Grant and Kauri Tearaura are solid as Lysander and Demetrius, but they really shine when under the influence of a love potion, the melodramatic Shakespearean lover delivery cranked up to maximum for hilarious effect. Jessica Ruck-Nu’u’s Helena is a more traditional portrayal and while she holds her own against her cast-mates, she doesn’t get as much variety as the others (though has some nice put-downs aimed at Hermia), and her constant phone use isn’t as smoothly integrated as it might be.

The third group of characters is the Mechanicals, the inelegant tradesmen working on a play. Antony-Paul Aiono’s commanding stage presence and spot-on comic delivery, as Bottom, steals most of his scenes, and director Marama makes the wise choice for the other players to be much lower energy (one to the point of being near oblivious to events) to contrast him. Each of these cast mates does get a moment to shine in their delivery of Pyramus and Thisbe, a dreadful play-within-a-play, done here as a clash of styles, accents and costumes. It’s a snapshot of deliberately awful theatre at its best.

It’s not a perfect production. Energy levels between scenes are inconsistent and scene transitions are a little too long. Coxhead Flats is a challenging location, with actors competing against cicadas and bridge traffic. Most of the main characters overcome this, but smaller characters, especially when they turn away from the audience, do become barely audible.

There’s a mix of acting experience in the cast and a tentative nature underlying the first performance from this group. But they execute the play well, keeping things engaged and the words and emotions easily understood. This is a cast that has put a lot of themselves into the work and it really shows. I look forward to seeing what they will create as they grow in confidence in the future. 


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