Magic In the Air

Chingford Park (411 North Rd, NEV), Dunedin

17/02/2023 - 19/02/2023

Production Details

Kim Morgan: Director;
Jessica Sutherland-Latton: Director;
Lisa Warrington: Director

Dunedin Summer Shakespeare
DSS Producer: Kim Morgan

Dunedin Summer Shakespeare:

Selected “Magical” scenes from three of Shakespeare’s plays:

  1. A playful look at Act One, The Tempest, dir. Lisa Warrington, abridged and slightly deconstructed, with books, songs, magic, surprises and a few strange creatures.
    The Tempest famously begins with a wild storm at sea. Enter a world of natural and unnatural storms, magic and tempest-tossed beings trapped on a remote island. A place inhabited (against their wishes) by magician and scholar Prospero and her daughter Miranda, alongside Prospero’s most unwilling servants Ariel and Caliban. Into which drops the shipwrecked Ferdinand. He is only the third man Miranda has ever seen, but what does Prospero have in mind for him? Expect a little audience participation.
  2. Macbeth, Act One, Scenes 1 & 3, dir. Jessica Sutherland-LattonKilda Northcott (legendary dancer), Amalie Latton (Trinity College), and Jessica Latton (Ake Ake Theatre Company) as Witches / Weird Sisters; DSS regulars Cheyne Jenkinson as Macbeth and Andrew Brinsley-Pirie as Banquo / Master of the Sword.Three witches meet amidst a storm as a nearby battle rages.  Soon after, they are met by Scottish generals Macbeth and Banquo, fresh from their hard-won victory over rebels and invaders.  The witches prophecy that Macbeth will one day be king, while Banquo will beget a line of kings – and a tragic tale of bloody acts begins to unfold. Expect Celtic passion, weapons and elemental power!
  3. The Merry Wives of Windsor, excerpts from Acts 1, 2, 4 & 5, dir. Kim Morgan DSS regulars Phil Grieve as Falstaff, Rosie Collier as Mistress Ford / Titania, and welcoming Rosella Hart as Mistress Page / Puck.One of Shakespeare’s most beloved rogues, Sir John Falstaff, is up to plenty of mischief in the middle-class town of Windsor.  To fill his purse and his belly, he attempts to seduce the wives of two wealthy merchants.  The women, however, are wise to his ploys and manage to trap Falstaff in a series of increasingly hilarious snares of their own merry devising. Expect audience participation (for some fake-Faery mischief), and a good laugh at the expense of our generous protagonist!

The Tempest, Act One (adapted by Lisa Warrington)
Sara Georgie: Prospero (rightful ruler of Milan)
Miriam Noonan: Miranda (her daughter)/ Ariel (a spirit)
Anna Noonan: Ariel (a spirit)/Caliban (a servant)
Simon Anderson: Caliban (a servant)/Ferdinand (a prince)
Drummers: Therese Tili, Anamalia Tili, Joe Peters, Sam Peters (and special thanks to Isaac Tili)
Kalisito Tunoka: Guest Shark

Macbeth (Act One scenes,adapted by Jessica Sutherland-Latton)
Amalie Latton: Witch
Jessica Sutherland-Latton: Witch
Kilda Northcott: Witch
Cheyne Jenkinson: Macbeth (Thane of Glamis)
Andrew Brinsley-Pirie: Banquo (Thane of Lochaber)/Master of Sword

The Merry Wives of Windsor (scenes adapted by Kim Morgan)
Phil Grieve: Sir John Falstaff (a boastful knight)
Rosella Hart: Mistress Page/Puck
Rosie Collier: Mistress Ford/Titania

Matthew Morgan: Technical & Graphic
Sofie Welvaert: Horns design for Falstaff
Andrew MacKay: Photographer (Kea Photography)

Comedy , Family , Outdoor , Spoken word , Theatre ,

65 - 75 minutes

Still relevant themes avoid malice, leaving audience charmed by mystery and mischief

Review by Terry MacTavish 19th Feb 2023

Magic in the Air – not terrible cyclones but a gentler, softer zephyr conjured by the wonderful team who despite the calamities of the last few years has given Dunedin a reason to look forward to the end of summer. The beautiful, stylish poster by Matthew Morgan tempts us into the venue, and there is the alluring sound of live drumming.

No place could be more perfect for magic than Chingford Park, the romantic memory of a great house fallen, only the picturesque stables now remaining to show the splendour there once was, while nature gradually reclaims its territory. We are seated in a grassy dell enclosed by great beech trees as ancient as any since settlers cleared the tall forests of North East Valley, its tranquillity unmarred by traffic noise. Clever producer Kim Morgan has made the best choice yet for our now well-established and beloved Summer Shakespeare, open air, free to all, professional yet pleasantly casual and unpretentious, alternating whole plays with selected scenes like these three from The Tempest, Macbeth, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

It seems cruelly ironic, considering the recent national funding spat over whether so far from England’s sceptred isle Shakespeare is still relevant, that all these three excerpts should probably come with trigger warnings. Never doubt that Shakespeare’s genius is for all time, everywhere, and any theme chosen is likely to strike to the heart.

Given the devastation wrought so recently by Cyclone Gabrielle, the opening scene of The Tempest is certainly hard to take, an audience member later confiding she found it ‘difficult’ to be urged to help create wave-surges to drown the shipwrecked mariners. What was clearly intended as a light-hearted, charming opportunity for audience interaction, supported by some dramatic drumming, has by its timely relevance much darker implications.

Fortunately, experienced director Lisa Warrington has provided a measure of reassurance in the whimsical slant she has given her Prospero, the delightfully ebullient and supremely confident Sara Georgie. As the wizard of the magic island and creator of the tempest, Georgie is no terrifying and sinister sorcerer, bringing evil destruction, but a jolly magician, chattily assuring us her art is merely illusion. Meanwhile her cutely agile sprites, Miriam Noonan and Anna Noonan, duck and dive and cry for help quite merrily, leaving even the children in the audience in no doubt that this is only a trick, all will be safe.

Warrington has wisely emphasized the comedy, making the most of Georgie’s skill in ad-libbing with the crowd, and allowing Georgie as Prospero to give us the back-story of the play in her own words. The lengthy exposition at the start of Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s less successful bits of stagecraft, but the spirits enact all they can, Georgie’s throw-away lines are smart, and it is indeed amusing to see Prospero as a frustrated parent to teenage Miranda (Miriam Noonan), prone to bumbling a few tricks, but triumphantly bagging her a princely husband.

Simon Anderson doubles as a delightfully goofy prince and as Prospero’s brutish servant Caliban ‘not honoured with a human shape’. Caliban is most wonderfully presented by two actors, Anderson and Anna Noonan, contorting themselves into a grotesque monster from within a stone-coloured wrap, working the grassy in-the-round performance area imaginatively. Indeed, all the actors show admirable control of what can be an awkward space to inhabit, and no watcher seems excluded.

The second short extract is from Macbeth, focusing on the prophecies of the Weird Sisters/Witches in a time of rebellion and invasion in Scotland, and with a world still engaged in warfare (a whole year since Putin invaded Ukraine!), the vicious swordplay demonstrated by Cheyne Jenkinson and Andrew Brinsley-Pirie is all too realistic. Later, still in kilts and bloodied shirts, these practised Summer Shakespeare actors acquit themselves well as Macbeth and Banquo, challenging the Witches.

Director Jessica Sutherland-Latton plays one of the Witches, combining with Kilda Northcott and Amalie Latton. Splendidly costumed, together they bring beautiful movement and stunning presence to their interpretations of majestic, rather than grotesque, supernatural beings. They are mesmerising, and some of us are sorry when, as ‘bubbles of the earth’ they vanish before giving us the cauldron scene. ‘Double, double, toil and trouble?’ I hear a youngster whisper hopefully.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is the story of fat rich old Sir John Falstaff, who thinks his riches and status entitle him to hit on every woman he fancies. Again, still horribly relevant, and triggering for many. The last time I directed this play was at the height of the Me Too movement, with the then-president of USA asserting his right to grab any woman by her most intimate body-part. So naturally I made my Falstaff a Trump look-alike, and my vengeful fairies were the Merry Wives and their friends, wearing the elegant black evening gowns the Oscar actresses had donned as a protest.

Producer and director Kim Morgan has a totally different Falstaff. Like Prospero, he does not appear a very real threat, so we can afford to be a little indulgent towards him. Of course, we know we should condemn him, but how can we not be tolerant, when gorgeously expansive Phil Grieve exudes the sort of exuberant good-humour that charms us, however we may deplore his sleazy behaviour.

Even Grieve’s charisma would not work, however, were it not that the Merry Wives, as played by charming winsome-twosome Rosella Hart and Rosie Collier, are such feisty, post-Me-Too women. They are superbly assertive from the moment they receive identical love letters from Falstaff (well, Falstaff calls it love, clearly it is merely lust!) and we know they will be more than a match for him, in sexual innuendo as well as their plot to lure him to the wood of Herne the Hunter and ‘fright him with Fairies’.

Apart from the Witches, costuming is downplayed, but there’s a round of applause for the wondrous horns Falstaff dons (courtesy Sofie Welvaert) for his tryst in the woods. Intriguingly, the Fairies have been borrowed from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hart and Collier appear as a lively Puck and Titania combo, all great fun. The audience lap it up, enjoying Falstaff’s humiliation, giggling all the way, and finally cheerfully willing to follow Morgan’s advice, to “go home and laugh this sport o’er, by a country fire”.

Happily, none of this Magic in the Air has been malicious, although mysterious, even mischievous: “sweet airs that give delight, and hurt not”, and the audience is charmed. But as I drift out of the enchanted grove, I realise I am pondering sadly Prospero’s very last speech in The Tempest, not one we heard, as he sets aside his magic art, a wish for “calm seas and auspicious gales”, and hoping such a promise will hold true for Te Ika-a-Maui. 


Francesca Bolgar February 22nd, 2023

Oops, accidentally cut off the remainder of my feedback: the opening scene from the Scottish play, directed by Jessica Latton, was dramatically enacted by male actors in bloodstained shirts wielding swords & 3 colourful witches swirling around. Kim Morgan's excerpt from The Merry Wives of Windsor had Phil Grieve as Falstaff in full rutting mode (with magnificent antlers!) His two intended conquests were played by actresses who exhibited modern confidence in employing their Elizabethan stratagems. All in all, Dunedin Summer Shakespeare served up a very satisfying sampler of magical themes from the bard's work.

Francesca Bolgar February 22nd, 2023

Dunedin Summer Shakespeare excelled itself with three very different, very magical excerpts from Shakespeare, performed as noted in an idyllic outdoor setting. The evening I attended, the audience. seated on the grass, happily & enthusiastically participated in being stormy ocean waves (which to me is a very different movement from that of the disastrous flood waters up north). They next became snapping sharks in this ocean at the start of an inventive and humorous extract from The Tempest, directed by Lisa Warrington. Also worthy of note is the excellent singing voice of Simon Anderson in the same extract, which added to the charm & power of the performances.

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