Review / A surprisingly fun Shakespeare production

theatre / “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, at Sydney Entertainment Quarter, until December 2. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Shakespeare’s Pop Up Globe

WHO would have thought Shakespeare could be so much fun? 

The brainchild of Miles Gregory, the Pop Up Globe is a full-scale temporary working replica of the second Globe, built by Shakespeare and his company in 1614 after the first Globe Theatre burnt down.

Originally created in Auckland, as a one-off to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Pop Up Globe aimed at providing audiences with the immersive experience of seeing Shakespeare performed in the space for which it was written.

So successful were the original seasons that the first international season was mounted in Melbourne in 2017, where again sell-out audiences couldn’t get enough of this unique experience.

The Pop Up Globe has now been installed in the Entertainment Quarter in Sydney where, over the next three months, two full companies, The Buckingham and The Southampton, will perform productions of four of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “A Comedy of Errors”, “Macbeth” and “The Merchant of Venice”,  in the style of the original stagings, in repertory.

The Sydney season opened with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. A riotous, bawdy interpretation directed by Gregory for The Buckingham’s. For this production, as was usual in Shakespeare’s time, the female roles of Helena, Hermia and a delightfully rotund Titania, were played by men, (Thomas Wingfield, Max Loban and Asalema Tofete respectively), who, while assiduously avoiding the temptation to camp up their roles, found plenty of nuances in their lines with which to convulse their knowing audience.

Jade Daniels… quite magical as Puck…

Gregory imagined his mechanicals as contemporary tradies, led by lanky Chris Huntly-Turner as Bottom, and a female actor, Sarah Griffin, as Flute, all complete with high-vis jackets and hard hats. It made sense and worked a treat.

But more unusually, Gregory has cast his fairies as Maori gods who speak te reo Maori, in a translation by Pierre Lyndon. A masterstroke, for although the words may have been intelligible to most of the audience, the performance of them by Jason Te Kare, (Oberon), Asalema Tofete, (Titania) and especially Jade Daniels (quite magical as Puck) imbued the production with a charming mystical quality – their meaning quite obvious.

Confident, exuberant performances from all the cast, most of whom play at least two roles, together with excellent costuming and production values insure a wonderfully entertaining evening, but it’s the unique environment of the Globe Pop Up which makes this production such a memorable experience.

Whether you enjoy a performance in the comparative comfort of seated tiered balconies, or standing among the more adventurous “groundlings”, mosh-pit style in front of the stage, dodging blood, missiles and fleeing actors, experiencing a performance of a Shakespeare play in this environment really is something not to be missed.

 

 

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