William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

University of Auckland Drama Studio, 14a Symonds Street, Auckland

12/03/2008 - 29/03/2008

Production Details

Theatrewhack, in association with Stage2 Productions and AUSA are proud to present William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This production is a fundraiser for the Auckland University Summer Shakespeare.

The play is directed by Auckland University Masters graduate and playwright Patrick Graham, author of iS and Lost Girls, both recently performed at the Herald Theatre. His recent forays into Shakespearean comedy include 2006’s Summer Shakespeare The Comedy Of Errors and 2007’s The Taming Of The Shrew, at the Musgrove Studio.

Comedy of Errors: Fred Drag does Shakespeare! 24 Feb 2006 – Chris Banks.

GayNZ.com: "There’s something about the outdoor summer evening atmosphere and setting that allows a director to really go to town with material like this, and go to town Graham has, crafting a version of the play that manages to be absurdist, energetic, innovative and rib-tickling…"

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a story of love, magic and mischievous fairies. The play features three interlocking plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of and the Amazon queen Hippolyta, and set simultaneously in the woodland, and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.

Many of the cast are currently students or university alumni and have already performed in Shakespearean productions, most notably 2007’s The Merchant Of Venice and Patrick Graham’s 2007 production of The Taming Of The Shrew. Additionally, three cast members appeared in 2006’s The Comedy Of Errors, also directed by Patrick Graham.

James Townshend is playing Peter Quince:
From the NZ Herald website’s review of The Comedy Of Errors, 13 Feb, 2006: "The standout performance came from James Townshend playing the forlorn father of the twins. His narration of the circumstances that led to his sons’ separation is a masterpiece of comic timing, and at every appearance he builds immediate rapport with the audience." 

Michaela Spratt is playing Bottom, and James Wenley is playing Snug:  
From the Theatreview website’s review of The Taming Of The Shrew, 12 Oct, 2007: "Both (Michaela) Spratt and Lee… deliver the goods respectively as the Shrew’s implacably sassy Kate and sweet radiant Bianca, who in turn is well matched by her main suitor Lucentio, a loveable lovestruck cornball as played by James Wenley."

Bookings for a Midsummer Night’s Dream can be made from February 18 by calling (09) 373 7599 ext 84226, or by emailing nightsdream08@gmail.com

When: Wednesday, 12 March 2008 – Saturday, 29 March 2008
Starts: 7:30pm – Ends: 9:00pm  
Where: The University of Auckland Drama Studio, 14a Symonds Street, Auckland
Cost: Adult  $18.00; Concession:  $15.00
Tickets: Phone: (09) 373 7599 ext 84226      

Unpretentious and watchable

Review by Sian Robertson 13th Mar 2008

This production is a fundraiser to bring back the University of Auckland’s Outdoor Summer Shakespeare. Director Patrick Graham (also responsible for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 2007 and The Comedy of Errors, 2006) has attempted, as many have done before, to make Shakespeare interesting and accessible to a young audience, and for the most part he’s successful. For a start, it’s pared down to a comfortable 90 minutes – losing none of its action and a lot of its long-winded, meandering speeches. 

I have seen more A Midsummer Night’s Dream productions than any other Shakespeare play, and yet it is one of my least favourite, mainly because of its self-excused ‘weak and idle theme’ which really is ‘no more yielding but a dream’. This version succeeds in that it doesn’t try to pretend to be anything else.

Instead of going for pathos and sincerity, the lovers’ knot is portrayed as the farce that it is, and has never been funnier, with Lysander and Demetrius’ lewd pawings and the women’s incredulous tantrums bringing down the house.

Where the otherwise humorous physicality of the play doesn’t work is when it becomes too slapstick: the goofiness of the fairies seems to be aimed at primary school kids. Although I can understand wanting to get away from the dainty, pretty, insubstantial fairy tradition, this interpretation with its fluffy pink hats, vacant grins and clumsy bearing doesn’t really do it for me either.

On the other hand, Bottom and the other ‘mechanicals’ (played by the same actors as the fairies and with the same buffoonery) do master the slapstick element, as they are supposed to – simple tradesmen hamming it up for the celebrations of their Duke’s wedding day. Given the naughty/modern tone of the play, though, and its gender blurring, several opportunities for comic innuendo are missed in translation.

Hanna Craven – a woman playing a man playing a woman (Flute/Thisby) – does a convincing falsetto and, aside from Puck, is also the least tedious fairy, playing the cheeky, flouncy Moth. 

Paul Letham is amusing both as the self-important but completely gormless Theseus and the campy, treacherous Oberon. Puck, always a favourite, is Oberon’s gothic-camp toyboy, played to mischievous perfection by a nimble Jack Seabrook.

Catherine McHattie plays Titania and Hyppolyta. Quietly domineering, she definitely wears the pants, both as the Oberon’s fairy queen and Theseus’ Amazonian wife-to-be.

A minimal, static set with nothing to even faintly suggest a forest means you have to use your imagination. Painted spirals on the wall and floor give it a very stylised sense of depth, which also fits with the feel of the play – it’s more concerned with the physicality of the characters and their interpersonal flaws than with aesthetics or themes of magic and dreams. 

Going to a student production of such perennial Shakespeare might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this an unpretentious and watchable rendition with a reasonable dash of charm. 


David Aston March 13th, 2008

`Long-winded and meandering`? Really? Played with energy and verbal skill and with deft pacing this play is an absolute joy to watch and experience. It is funny and touching and shows real vulnerability. Have you tried speaking some of the lines aloud Reviewer?

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