The peripatetic Nash company shows its commitment to staging Shakespeare in tackling the Bard’s delightful comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream “one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays and one of the most perfect comedies written,” in the words of The Australian‘s Jo Litson (28 May 2004).
Litson interviewed Anna Volska, who is currently directing this play for Bell Shakespeare. Volska gives us something to think about when she says “I think the major theme of the play is love: possessive, obsessive, controlling love. But it matures into an acceptance that true love is letting the other person be who they are and not trying to change them. It’s perfectly structured [as a play]. So well structured that it looks easy. But, in fact, to have the three major worlds in it coinciding or plaiting between each other so seamlessly, and to tell all of the stories without any obscurity, is amazing.”
Nash succeed in telling the three intertwined stories clearly and amusingly. Performed at Holy Trinity church hall in Fortitude Valley, the production features a young and enthusiastic cast well directed by Drew Mason and Vivienne Abitia.
Kynan and Ystyn Francis, Jessica Hurley and Helen Moore effectively portray the lovelorn Athenian quartet of Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena, while Bree Billington, Brendon Binmore-Wilkinson, Lara Kappler, Brent Summerton, Brad Turnbull and Alex Taylor all do well variously as mechanicals and fairies. Malcolm Steele is suitably stern as Egeus. We have a girl Puck in the shape of Anke Willems nicely mischievous but perhaps somewhat angrier than is necessary. As the central characters, Jane Ballinger is the Fairy Queen, Titania, doubling as Hippolyta, while Benjamin Hampe is Fairy King Oberon and also duke Theseus. They succeed in the dynamics of both relationships.
The directors have made full use of the hall’s space, perching the audience on the edges while the players in their nice mix of costumes run riot the whole length of the hall. It works well, and indeed could have been developed further. The more stagey scenes at the opening and closing of the play are performed at the far end, limiting audibility and connectedness with the audience. The mechanicals’ “Pyramus and Thisbe” could in particular have been played “centre stage”, perhaps seating the Athenian court spectators among the audience.
There are a few rough edges, including problems with pace, some garbled lines, and some comic sequences like Pyramus and Thisbe that are rather heavy-handed. On the other hand there are various original comic ideas which add to the entertainment.
Best performance of the night is that of Ben Hampe. He acts with authority and with a magnificent Shakespearean voice of the traditional style.