The Queensland Ballet’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a delight to the imagination and the senses.
The lead role of Hippolyta/Titania is danced magnificently by Rachael Walsh. She leads us on a merry dance indeed through the world of dreams and fairies. She provides the ethereal thread through the complex conflict between the Queen of the Amazons and Theseus, Duke of Athens. Her versatility and grace continue to astound audiences under her spell.
There are few roles in dance or theatre more deliciously mischievous than that of Puck who dispenses nectar from a flower given magical power by the bolt of Cupid to induce love. Yu Hui makes the role his own, receiving warm applause from the audience. He darts about creating all manner of unlikely love matches to provoke and amuse. What great fun!
Perhaps the high point of his frolics comes after he has played a trick on poor old Bottom the Weaver (Gareth Belling) causing him to sprout a donkey’s head. Meanwhile Titania (Rachael Walsh) and her fairies have settled to sleep and Oberon, King of the Fairies (danced ably by Nathan Scicluna) puts flower nectar on her eyes. The beautiful Titania awakes and, seeing the donkey, immediately falls in love with him. Bottom can not believe his luck. At this point all men in the audience could envision a world where beautiful women would look past the superficial ugliness of men and fall in love with their inner beauty! Sadly, at this point the curtain came down on Act One and the dream was temporarily interrupted.
The mayhem continues in Act 2 when the rascally Puck applies the nectar to create further love and jealousy, much to the annoyance of Oberon who finally intervenes and ordered Puck to put things right with the lovers.
Bottom the Weaver (Gareth Belling) and the other Mechanicals provide excellent comic relief. They dance artfully and resist the temptation to ham it up. Their light touch works. Their “play within the play” complements the action of the central plot.
One modest criticism is that the ending is perhaps a little drawn out. It is not necessary to milk applause from an opening night audience so ready to thunder their approval.
It is wonderful to have the Queensland Orchestra playing under Concertmaster Warwick Adeney. The strings are particularly moving. The rich strains of Felix Mendelssohn’s score float dancers and audience alike through transports of delight. So often in the past budgetary constraints have forced the Queensland Ballet to rely on recorded music. One can only hope this is a sign of a more generous dispensation.
The costumes designed by Noelene Hill are stunning. They combined with carefully crafted sets and lighting to fashion a world fit for love’s confusions and dreams.
As our cinema screens continue to be choked with action scenes of graphic gore it is gratifying that there still sparkles a dancing world of truth and beauty which, as Keats said, is all we know on earth and all we need to know.
Choreography by Francois Klaus Music by Felix Mendelssohn, Charles Ives and John Metcalf Concertmaster Warwick Adeney and the Queensland Orchestra 1-15 March 2008, Playhouse, QPAC Duration: 2 hours 10 minutes with one interval (20 minutes)