Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

24/07/2014 - 02/08/2014

Production Details

All manner of magical goings on will break loose on the Globe stage on Thursday 24 July when Shakespeare’s most loved comedy begins a nine-performance season. The mortal world of Dukes and Amazons, young lovers, and a group of ham-acting tradesmen collides with the fairy sphere ruled by King Oberon and Queen Titania. But the fairy monarchs of the forest are having a right royal bust-up, and this sets off a chaotic chain of comic events that has enchanted audiences for over 400 years. 

Dunedin’s Globe Theatre continues to celebrate its recent return to Shakespeare. Following from Macbeth in 2013, is a comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Globe Theatre, 104 London St 
Thursday 24 July to Saturday 26 July 7.30 pm,
Sunday 27 July 2.00 pm,
Tuesday 29 July to Saturday 2 August 7.30 pm.
Booking: Ph 03 477 3274 or online www.globetheatre.org.nz

Theseus:  Paul Ellicot
Hippolyta:  Helen Fearnley
Egeus:  Campbell Thomson
Lysander:  Nick Tipa
Demetrius:  Andrew Brinsley-Pirie
Philostrate:  James Hunt
Hermia:  Miriam Noonan
Helena:  Elisa Jones
Quince: Anisha C Hensley Wilson
Bottom:  Brook Bray
Flute Reuben Hilder
Snout: Annika Lewis
Starvling:  Oscar McDonald
Snug:  Sarah Cull-Luketina
Oberon:  Dean Alan Jones
Titania:  Laura Wells
Puck:  Sofie Welvaert
Peaseblossom:  Anna Dawes
Cobweb:  Juliet McLachlan
Mustardseed:  Katerina Thompson  
Fern: Nina Duke Howard
Moth:  Lani Swann

Delicious wavering between delicate illusion and rude reality

Review by Terry MacTavish 26th Jul 2014

The Globe’s tribe of eager young actors is set to enchant a new generation with this wildly enthusiastic production of Shakespeare’s completely perfect comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The overflowing auditorium is buzzing with the friends who have flocked to see them, theatrical and totally non-theatrical types, inspired by the lively Facebook page which has tantalised with such delights as ‘prequels’ – from aspirational audition tapes, to a back-story for Helena and Hermia charmingly filmed in the Botanic Gardens. 

In 2013 many of this same gang were involved in the Globe’s exciting post-apocalypse production of Macbeth, and many of the same strengths and weaknesses are apparent here.  Again director Dale Neill has seized on raw young talent and made bold production choices that captivate the audience. This time the stage is more successfully utilised, with lithe young bodies leaping and sprawling over the many levels of the otherwise simple set, designed by Neill, Sofie Welvaert and Helen Fearnley. 

Brian Byas sets the right mysterious mood with lighting and birdsong, shadow-play and a lovely magical fog (though music would help cover the sound of the machine!). Diction and handling of blank verse still present some difficulties, so that sometimes the meaning is confused, or poetry is subjugated to vigorous action, but overall the audience is getting just what Shakespeare intended, and rejoicing in roistering entertainment for a winter’s night, with happy thoughts of midsummer madness. 

Whether it’s the blend of love and magic that makes Dream so successful, or the anarchic comedy of the deluded rustic actors, this production maintains such a spanking pace that there are no moments that lag or characters that bore.  A lot of the audience seem new to Shakespeare, and it is exhilarating to hear the gasps of surprise and delight, and even spontaneous applause, as the story unfolds. 

There are three distinct groups of characters, the first headed by Theseus, Duke of Athens, who is marrying his buskined mistress, the Amazon Hippolyta. He must deal with the romantic tangles of four exceptionally silly star-crossed lovers, who escape to the magical wood outside the city.  Strangely, this is also the spot chosen by rough workmen of Athens (the ‘rude Mechanicals’) to rehearse their atrociously bad play for the wedding celebration.

Once in the wood, both groups find themselves caught in the crossfire of the marital battle waged between Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of Fairyland.  When Oberon’s wickedest sprite, Puck, scampers through the forest applying love potion to sleeping eyelids, mischief and mayhem ensue.

The little Globe stage has been stripped back, white steps and blocks scattered before projections of asymmetrical Grecian arches or prettily green lit tangled branches.  No more is required, as the large cast (22 at least) spills over it with carefree abandon, sometimes taking alarming risks, but creating attractive patterns with the glowing costumes.

These costumes, by Nina Duke Howard, luxuriously tattered and lopsided, lusciously frilled and ruffled, are described as Art Nouveau, but really borrowed from every era, including current Dunedin street fashion. I especially like the way the lovers’ colours – rich burgundy for one pair, vivid peacock green for the other – signal clearly from the start who belongs with whom. 

There is a range of experience in the cast, and Laura Wells as Titania should be a good model for the younger members, understanding as she does how to bring out the lyricism of the verse.  Her voice is rich and clear, her gestures beautifully controlled, and she and Oberon (a hirsute Dean Alan Jones) are a handsome pairing.  Oberon’s relationship with Puck is particularly intriguing: Sofie Welvaert has created a splendid Puck, feral and exciting in both her wild appearance and eccentric movement. 

Paul Ellicott makes Theseus a credible and commanding warrior-king despite a tendency to race through his lines, and his relationship with Hippolyta (a poised and confident Helen Fearnley) is appealingly affectionate, which bookends the play more happily than in the productions that show her as a reluctant bride.

The lovers interact spunkily and their confused relationships are played for every scrap of humour, delighting the audience.  Miriam Noonan as tiny Hermia and Elisa Jones as elegant Helena are both completely charming, although at times their voices are too soft to carry well. 

Nick Tipa (Lysander) and Andrew Brinsley-Pirie (Demetrius) have clearly benefitted from their experience in the Globe’s recent fine productions of Journey’s End and The History Boys. They strut the stage with enormous and justified assurance, carrying off the absurd love-making and ridiculous rivalry with aplomb. 

The six hard-handed working men are funny too, led by Anisha Hensley-Wilson as Quince, rehearsing then actually performing their tale of tragic love for the marriage celebrations.  Brook Bray really shines as charismatic Nick Bottom, his thespian ambitions hilariously expressed by Bray’s long legs and rubbery face.  He loses a little of his charm when that mobile face disappears inside the famous donkey head, and I miss the odd hee-haw when the sexy fairies are tending him, but this is a genuinely engaging performance.

The play within the play is as hilarious as ever, and the audience roars its approval.  Dream is so beautifully crafted it doesn’t need tweaking, but there are some nice touches here, like Oscar Macdonald’s Starveling portrayed as a hopeless drunk who winces at loud noises, which means anytime Bottom opens his mouth. And Reuben Hilder as Flute, obliged to act tragic heroine Thisbe, is simply exquisite. The poignancy of his and Bottom’s death scenes: sublime! 

I doubt it’s possible to be anything but charmed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I’ve seen it so often, taught it, directed it, and acted in it too: indeed, this time last year I was performing in Shakespeare’s Globe, London, as, believe it or not, sweet bully Bottom!  You’d think I’d be sick of it, but in this cheerful Globe production, the play is as delicious as ever, wavering between delicate illusion and rude reality, the cast’s exuberance more than making up for any lapses in clarity.  After all, as Theseus says,
“… never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it”.

If the Globe feels it has a duty to bring the magic of Shakespeare to Dunedin, it is succeeding triumphantly, and well deserves full houses every night, revelling in the glorious nonsense and echoing Puck’s gleeful, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” 


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'Midsummer' folly antidote to winter

Review by Barbara Frame 26th Jul 2014

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always fun, and the Globe’s production of many people’s favourite Shakespeare play is no exception. 

Director Dale Neill has met the challenge of directing the 20-plus cast on the theatre’s small stage. The set, constructed by Ray Fleury and Don Knewstubb, is functional rather than decorative, extending the acting space vertically. The real visual treat is the costumes, created by Nina Duke Howard with the assistance of Elizabeth Duke and Sofie Welvaert – colourful and imaginative with more than a hint of fin-de-siecle finery. 

Thursday night’s opening suffered occasionally from problems common to amateur productions: varying levels of acting ability, awkward stage movements and lines delivered too quickly or almost inaudibly. As the evening progressed, however, the mostly young cast (several of whom study theatre at Otago University) gathered strength and momentum and carried them through to a triumphant and hilarious finale. 

The four young people whose romantic escapades are central are played confidently and engagingly by Nick Tipa (Lysander), Andrew Brinsley-Pirie (Demetrius), Miriam Noonan (Hermia) and Elisa Jones (Helena). They work with strong rapport, great timing, agility and considerable charm. 

Another group to watch is the mechanicals, the workmen who don’t let bumbling cluelessness get in their way of putting on a play. As Bottom, the loud and amiable fool subjected to fairy magic, Brook Bray dominates the stage with his long-limbed physical presence. Also highly watchable is Oscar Macdonald as a drink-sodden Starveling, anxious to please but always teetering on the verge of collapse. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues an exceptionally good year at the Globe, and an evening of midsummer folly in a wood near Athens makes a cheering antidote to a midwinter night in Dunedin.


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