The open-air setting of the Roma Street Parklands amphitheatre was the perfect stage for Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble’s (QSE) A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Director Robert Pensalfini’s vision of the show focused less on the expected romanticised colour-filled faerie kingdom, but instead brought out the darker elements of goblins and elves in a shadowland, ‘a subverted land of lost and buried desires, not immoral but amoral, or at least obscure to human morality.’
This was reflected in Belida McCormack’s minimalist grey-toned set design, and Angel Kosch’s costume design by, again with grey tones used for the goblins, and almost steam punk look for the humans (and band) in the play.
Another development that gave this interpretation a twist was the addition of prologue text from The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats, referring to the changeling child that the king and queen of the faerie kingdom are fighting over.
Rather than sitting in the amphitheatre’s provided seating, the production was given a more intimate setting by having the audience sit on the stage in a semi-circle around the action. The actors even utilised part of the raked setting where the audience usually sits as part of the set in various moments of the play, mainly with entrances and exits.
A live band who provided original music for the show (and pre-show) were set behind the audience on one side, with three of the multi-talented actors also performing in the band at various moments throughout.
The energetic and committed ensemble included Nick James (Lysander), Johancée Theron (Hermia), Rebecca Murphy (Helena), Silvan Rus (Demetrius), Ruby Drewery (Hippolyta/Titania), Zac Kelty (Theseus/Oberon), and Louise Brehmer (Puck). Colin Smith (Nick Bottom), Brandon Dowery, Sam Jeboult, Matt Gaffney, and Laura McKenna rounded out the ensemble by portraying the various faeries, elves, goblins and mechanical players.
Both leading ladies gave strong, fiery performances while the goblin/imps were noteworthy – using their physical agility to great comic effect.
Just a note of warning; although Roma Street’s amphitheatre provides an atmospheric setting, it can get a little chilly, so rug up, and take advantage of the coffee van stationed just downstairs from the stage.
Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the direction of Robert Pensalfini was an enjoyable steam-punkish flavoured version of the bard’s comedy and I will be interested to see what QSE serves up next.