Bell Shakespeare: The Dream

The Dream is Bell Shakespeare’s reworking (or should one say reawakening) of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

TheDream. Rehearsal. © PrueVercoe
Photo by PrueVercoe

Set in what looks like the interior of a decomposed ship, the work is playful, rhythmic and led by a strong cast of experienced actors.

For those familiar with the original work, The Dream is framed by the mechanicals, characters who are preparing to perform the play-within-a-play entitled Pyramus and Thisbe. Things become surreal when these players begin their rehearsal in the woods, a location in which four Athenian lovers also find themselves. Tricked, controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest, hilarious chaos ensues.

The performance is characterised by its energy and athleticism. But it is Julie Forsyth’s Puck, the fairy trickster, that really stands out. From her cheeky rapport with the audience, to her physicality and skill with the text, Forsyth’s voice drifts into the auditorium and lulls us into the illusion of the fairy dream-world.

Similarly, Ray Chong Nee stands as a powerful Oberon, the king of the fairies not to be reckoned with. His powerful baritone voice traverses the stage and infuses the rhythm of the text with authority and determination. Nikki Shiels (Helena) and Lucy Honigman (Hermina) are striking as they shift back and forth between the extremes of hatred and love with their male counterparts Jonny Carr (Demetrius) and Gareth Reeves (Lysander). And who could forget Richard Piper as Bottom, an eager mechanical who believes greatly in his own capacity as a performer.

The set is minimalistic, using overturned chairs and tables to establish different scenes quickly and effectively. The direction (Peter Evans) is tight and strong with well-choreographed freeze-frames and scene transitions, so that the rhythm of the work is never lost. The play is acutely well-made and for this reason it’s tough to view the production in a negative light. It achieves what it set out to do: an hilarious exposition and condensing of an original Shakespearean text and it’s highly entertaining.

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