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REVIEW | A Midsummer night's dream

April 19th 2000 02:49
bell shakespeare
a midsummer nights dream
by William Shakespeare

CAST: Ivar Kants, Jeanette Cronin, Laurence Coy, Julie Eckersley, Wadih Dona, Leon Ford, Marta Dusseldorp, Robin Bowering, Steve Rodgers, Dean Atkinson, Kristian Schmid,
Jerome Pride, Simon Hughes, Ross Williams, Frank Whitten

DIRECTOR Elke Neidhardt SET DESIGNER Michael Scott-Mitchell COSTUME DESIGNER Sue Field LIGHTING DESIGNER Rory Dempster COMPOSER Jonathon Maher SOUND DESIGNER Peter Eades

This production by The Bell Shakespeare Company opened 11 April 2000 in the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House

Director Elke Neidhardt has created a dark comic book nightmare with shades of Fritz Lang (German film director 1890 - 1976) Costume Designer Sue Field does the most exuberant things, knock out material in every way. Jeanette Cronin as Titania and Hippolyta is so sexy she smoulders, check out the thigh high Amazon Queen black boots! The silver breast plate and the sheer silver breasts are stunning. Cronin inhabits both roles in a way that must be seen to be appreciated. Marta Dusseldorp as Helena stomps around in track suit and long Annie Hall(Woody Allen movie 1977)skirt, looking like a terrible dork but performing Shakespeare with grace, humility and candor, her work was also excellent. As is Julie Eckersley as Hermia who completes this trident of women actors challenging the men and each other through the play. Eckersley as Hermia is as much a hoot as she is a nice head strong girl.

Neidhardt positions it more directly from the point of view of the women, who feature in glorious emotional outbursts, while the men are a beautiful range of dolts, monsters marvels and mice. I really like the direction and the pitch. It entertained me more than I imagined it could which is always welcome. The scenes between the lovers really rocked at times. Very fine acting. The fairy scenes even seemed kinky in a queer but never gratuitous or camp way. Actually the picture of the Greek dude with the erection in the programme was a nice surprise, but then I saw the picture of the Greek dude in the Bell Magazine making luurve to the Llama! Well, it does set the tone in a very clear way. If you do not buy a programme you can still pick up a Magazine in The Playhouse foyer for free, it has good educational value for students studying the play.

The whole production explores new ground with a play many have seen again and again. The most challenging casting is Frank Whitten as Puck. This creation lends more to Riff Raff (character played by Richard O'Brien in The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975) and Tim Burton (American film director 1960 -) than most renditions of Puck I have ever seen, and I think I have seen The Dream about twenty times over the years. Never before have I seen a Puck who is more of a cockroach than a sprite, interesting choice. Did not always hit the mark for me, but it did draw a new picture and I must say the challenge is now playing on my mind. This is the second time in the past few months I have seen a production of The Dream. The New Theatre did a very fine production recently.

This is a production I would take students to because it is a very good realization of the text, very fresh and very alive, very now. The casting works well over all with outstanding performances from each of the women and top performances by the men.

Music, sound, lighting, set, all have forceful triumphant moments. There is even a gloriously gynoclastic sunrise.

David Paul Jobling
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