A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2006

Review by Bill Spencer Barefoot Review

Midsummer madness, star crossed lovers, staggering hempen homespuns, fairies mingling with the audience and dancing with children and timeless verse all created an evening of magic equally satisfying to family picnickers, wine connoisseurs and Shakespeare buffs.

With a few minor apologies to the bard and concessions to modernity, Essential Theatre presented a polished, spirited and often rollicking performance of the ageless comedy. They generated a high degree of audience appreciation and participation which would have done credit to a performance at the Globe 400 years ago.

The actors more than overcame the absence of a set by their skilful and often athletic use of lawn, trees and shadows. The open air can be a challenge to the human voice, in this case made all the greater by the proximity of the main road. That they were to be able to be heard and their ability to play the grinding gears of the passing trucks was evidence of their professionalism.

The ‘Dream’ is possibly not the vehicle for notable individual performances but Matthew Molony’s physical presence as Oberon provided the pivot around which the production revolved. Dual role playing by most of the cast, from duke to devilish sprite, from “wall” to wounded lover, demanded frequent and often rapid changes of dress, which unlike “the course of true love” did run smoothly. Original music by Don Bridges replaced the more traditional Mendelsohn but was not inappropriate for a romp in the vines.

Essential Theatre is a Victorian based company and ‘Shakespeare in the Vines’ has been a highlight of their calendar for some years in the eastern states. This is their first season in Western Australia; “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was taken to the Swan Valley, Mount Barker and Margaret River. The nucleus of the company traveled form Melbourne but the rest of the actors were auditioned and engaged in Perth.

Plantagenet Wines should be congratulated on securing the event which they justifiably regard as a contribution to the community. They and Essential Theatre hope to be able to stage more Shakespeare next year. “Much Ado About Nothing” is suggested as most likely. At present licensing regulations impose an audience limit of 250 but this year people had to be turned away from the second night on the Saturday. With the play attracting an audience from Perth, Albany, Denmark and Esperance as well as Mount Barker, Plantagenet Wines are hopeful that an application to increase the maximum number will be successful. It can only increase the enjoyment.