Botanic Gardens - Upper, Dunedin

03/02/2022 - 13/02/2022

Production Details

Written by William Shakespeare

Summer Shakespare

Come “seek some dewdrops here, and hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear” at A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bring a rug* and enjoy the magical world of mischievous fairies and hapless lovers running amok in Otepoti’s Upper Botanic Gardens.

*Please note: When the grass may be damp to start, please bring a chair or waterproof blanket to stay dry — and a rug to stay warm.

Come share the magic of this DREAM with us!!

Upper Botanical Gardens, Dunedin
Wet weather venue: Te Hou Ora Hall, 78 Carroll St, Dunedin
3-13 February 2022
Thurs/Fri 6pm
Sat/Sun 4pm.
Booking details:
Due to COVID restrictions, you must book to attend the show here: https://www.trybooking.co.nz/JKH.
Vaccine pass also required.
Please wear a mask and keep 1m from other groups.

Go to the Facebook page to read more about the show and cast
and to check whether the performances are at the gardens or Te Hou Ora Hall (the wet weather venue).


The Court 
Theseus:  Andrew Brinsley-Pirie
Hippolyta:  Erica Julian
Egeus:  Brent Caldwell
Hermia:  Miriam Noonan
Lysander:  Shaun Swain
Helena:  Rosie Collier
Demetrius:  Alfred Richardson 

The Rustics
Bottom:  Nick Tipa
Quince:  Phil Grieve
Flute:  Thomas Makinson
Snout:  Chris Cook
Snug:  Kaiser Coles
Starveling:  Hélène Duprés 

The Faeries
Puck:  Jessica Latton
Oberon:  Matt Wilson
Titania:  Barbara Power
Fairy/Musician:  Tomuri Spicer
Peaseblossom:  Esther Smith
Mustardseed:  Patricia Pantleon
Cobweb:  April McMillan Perkins
Moth:  Kim Cope Tait 


Kim Morgan:  Director
Shaun Swain :  Assistant Director
Bronwyn Wallace:  Prod. & Stage Mgr.
Sofie Welvaert:  Costumes
Matthew Morgan:  Set / Props / Signs
Lucy Summers:  Marketing
Jessica Latton:  Kaitiaki, Producer
Lara Macgregor:  Photography, Producer
Kim Morgan:  Text, Producer
Rhys Latton:  Administration
John Broughton:  Kaitautoko
Ushers:  Bruce C, Tabitha L, Zac H  

Theatre , Outdoor ,

Rain fails to stop play

Review by Barbara Frame 08th Feb 2022

Unexpectedly and inconveniently, it rained, and so Dunedin Summer Shakespeare’s opening night performance had to be relocated from the Upper Gardens to Te Hou Ora Otepoti’s excellent premises in Carroll Street.  

It mattered, but not too much. With a few rugs and some plastic flowers and toadstools, the company soon had the audience believing themselves to be onlookers at the fantastic goings-on in a wood near Athens. Costumes have a flavour that’s both international and timeless, with enough hints of Aotearoa New Zealand to make us feel included.

With a running time of just over an hour and a half, this production trims quite a bit off Shakespeare’s original, but everyone will recognise their favourite scenes. 

Like preceding Summer Shakespeares, this one is highly physical, verging on acrobatic. The “rude mechanicals” (always my favourites) are nothing if not boisterous, and proficient comic timing is displayed by Nick Tipa as Bottom, Phil Grieve as Quince, and Thomas Makinson as Flute. The mechanicals’ rendering of Pyramus and Thisbe, possibly the silliest play-within-a-play ever written, is probably the funniest I’ve ever seen. 

Also especially noteworthy in a very accomplished cast are Matt Wilson and Barbara Power as Oberon and Titania; their performances are highly nuanced and very adult, and the indoor setting made it easier for the audience to appreciate the lights and shadows of their highly mobile facial expressions. Titania’s love scene with Bottom is especially deiicious. Jessica Latton’s Puck is original and enigmatic as well as, of course, mischievous. 

The 70-strong audience, masked and seated “in the round,” was delighted, and the applause at the end rapturous. Congratulations are due to director Kim Morgan, assistant director Shaun Swain (who also makes a fine Lysander) and everyone associated with the production. 

It’s not all about the location, but I’m looking forward to seeing it again, maybe on a dry evening.


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Admirably succinct yet ebullient

Review by Terry MacTavish 07th Feb 2022

The enchantment never fails, no matter how many times you have seen or directed or even acted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is simply the most perfect comedy ever penned. Dunedin Summer Shakespeare has captured all of its charm and ingenuity, the first-timers in the capacity audience marvelling at the sheer brilliance of the tangled plot, and everyone hooting at its absurdities. I am so glad I risked the weather chaos caused by a warring Fairy King and Queen (okay, climate change caused by stupid humans/ foolish mortals), and followed the quirky signs of Will wearing sunglasses to the romantic setting of the Native Cultivar Lawn in Dunedin’s Botanic Gardens.

Director Kim Morgan has concocted a delectable spun-sugar Dream, iridescent as raindrops in sudden sunshine, a delightful contrast to the last production of this play that I reviewed, which was a truly dark and dangerous Dream in London’s Globe. Here the focus is on the laughter and sheer fun – friends and lovers may become exasperated with each other, but the relationships are solid for all that, and no cruelty or nastiness mars the happy ending.

The play opens with Theseus, Duke of Athens, on the brink of marriage to his former adversary the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, to consolidate the peace. However, Theseus somewhat rashly sides with Egeus, who is determined his daughter Hermia will marry his choice, Demetrius, although Hermia is in love with Lysander, and Demetrius was recently engaged to Helena. But under Morgan’s direction, women are anything but the weaker sex. A little judicious switching of the lines, helped by pertinent body language, ensures Theseus’ casual sexism is challenged by his bride, and by the end Hippolyta looks set to reform him.

Their rocky relationship is mirrored by that of Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of Fairyland, whose dubious quarrel over possession of a ‘sweet changeling’ is glossed over, while their reconciliation is marked by humility from Oberon with a beautifully tender mime to gentle singing, incorporating te reo, by Titania’s Fairy. Oberon’s own wild sprite Puck is motivated by mischief, rather than malice.

Nor is there real unpleasantness among the other two groups who converge on the magical wood on Midsummer’s Eve. The working men rehearsing their dreadful play for the royal wedding, the Rustics or ‘Rude Mechanicals’, are touchingly supportive of each other and enormously proud of their star, Bottom the Weaver, though his unbridled enthusiasm does test the patience of poor Quince, the long-suffering director. The escaping lovers too, pursued by unwanted admirers, are invariably comical, petulant but not spiteful.

Morgan has a wealth of experience, much of it overseas, but not least with NZ’s own SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company, and she knows just how to trim the Bard to the right length for outdoor venues, fickle weather and modern audiences. Cut to a mere 90 minutes, the convoluted narrative is still clear and I barely miss one favourite line – in two senses, for the actors’ projection is uniformly admirable, their voices carrying beautifully in the open air.

Splendid use is made of the lovely garden setting, an often-neglected corner astutely selected by Matt Morgan, augmented only by a hanging basket chair, entwined securely with what is surely “luscious woodbine”, for Titania’s “bank where the wild thyme blows”. The performance in-the-round replicates Shakespeare’s own thrust stage theatre, the actors working confidently in close proximity to patrons sipping cider in the sunshine. The physical comedy is totally captivating, the ludicrous fights imaginatively choreographed, with ingenious manoeuvring to ensure visibility, as scene swiftly follows scene.

The actors range from high school students to seasoned professionals, in accord with Dunedin Summer Shakespeare policy, and many were in the fine Romeo and Juliet of 2020. In a wonderful casting choice, Titania and Oberon are played by attractive mature actors Barbara Power and Matt Wilson, who make a gorgeous, sizzling-hot power couple, and no doubt inspire the more youthful cast members.

Jessica Latton, who along with Morgan and Lara Macgregor is one of the original visionary producers of DSS, is a sinuous, graceful Puck, her fluid dancer skills used to pleasurable effect, as she jubilantly wields the purple flower, the juice of which “will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees”. The lovely fairies, assisted by music from the company’s fine musician, First Fairy Tomuri Spicer, follow her lead, slipping through the bushes with delicate floating movements.

Meanwhile the four lovers throw themselves into their night-time shenanigans with manic energy, perfectly illustrating the delusional folly of romantic love. As “disdainful Demetrius” Alfred Richardson is the archetypal arrogant youth, convinced that what he wants he is entitled to have, while as Helena, his spurned ex, Rosie Collier is doggedly determined, and entertainingly stroppy, even when begging to be treated as Demetrius’ spaniel. Her whining howl is as funny as it is cringe-making.

Lysander and Hermia are vigorously enacted by the adorably tiny pairing of Shaun Swain and Miriam Noonan, the latter achieving a particularly brilliant dive between the legs of Demetrius. Swain, who co-directs, delivers a master class in physical theatre, his body a superbly controlled instrument that responds to every line, and I find it hard to take my eyes off his expressive face.

As Theseus and Hippolyta, Andrew Brinsley-Pirie and Erica Julian make a noble and dignified couple, with the unnecessary role of their Master of Revels subsumed into that of a surprisingly likeable Egeus, performed with lively panache by Brent Caldwell.

Ah, but what of those parodies of amateur acting, the Rustics, whose burlesque presentation of a classic tragedy is possibly the most memorable of Shakespeare’s comic inventions? Well, from the uproarious response, this audience is clearly judging them a complete success, as in their dark blue overalls they explode onto the stage with great gusto, their robust prose a counterpoint to the airy poetry of the high born and the fairies.

Phil Grieve, one of the DSS professionals, proves a real asset as Quince, the patient and not unintelligent director, swopping his woolly hat for a tatty gold wreath and toga to appear before the Duke, and his mates are a delight both as their original characters, and the parts they must ‘act’.

Thomas Makinson (Flute) produces an exquisite falsetto as heroine Thisbe, with the best-ever death-wail, Chris Cook (Snout) is side-splitting both as Bottom’s chief fan and as an unjustifiably complacent Wall, sweet Kaiser Coles (Snug) makes the fiercest Lion ever, while earnest Hélène Duprés (Starveling) is impossibly cute as a Moonshine paralysed with stage fright. All are astonishingly good.

But if there is one actor who absolutely epitomises the joyous exuberance of Morgan’s beguiling production, it has to be Nick Tipa as Bottom the Weaver. Radiant with energy and sheer zest for life, Tipa is an unforgettable Bottom from the start, building to some magnificent over-acting as Pyramus. The scene after (spoiler alert!) his magical transformation to a donkey, beloved of the Fairy Queen, is transcendent. The costume, with admirable simplicity consisting of waggling ears, tail, and furry hooves, allows us to see his tumbled hair and facial expressions, and consequently Power and Tipa share the most hilariously passionate and steamy embraces I have witnessed between the lovely Fairy Queen and shape-changed yokel.*

Sofie Welvaert’s clever costumes are a delight, standing out against the vibrant green grass and delicately complementing the light-hearted mood, from the elegant cream and beige garments of Theseus and Hippolyta, with cloaks and kilts somehow combining Greek, Scots and Māori traditions, to the glorious feathers, lace and tie-dyed ombre effects for Titania. Her fairies are charmingly flower or insect-like according to their names, while Puck’s fur and horns suggest something between goat and bumblebee. Melodious windchimes enhance the moments of magic.

No praise is too high for the optimistic courage shown by Summer Shakespeare in pursuing their own dream of bringing us quality theatre, in the open air and free to all, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

They should feel rewarded by the fact that the entire season sold out instantly, with a long waiting list, proving that Dunedin is teeming with plenty who appreciate and indeed need the magic of theatre.

The audience is rapturous – Morgan’s admirably succinct yet ebullient production in its dreamy setting has held them enthralled; like Bottom they have been “translated”. They drift slowly away through a ravishing part of the Gardens many have not explored before, reluctant to wake from their enchantment, grateful to Summer Shakespeare for ‘a most rare vision’.
*A knowledgeable friend is tickled to note that Bottom wakes Titania with a loud rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’, wittily appropriate as the translation is ‘None shall sleep’ – one of many in-jokes!


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