‘Midsummer Dreams enter the Forest’ is a totally new concept, based loosely around a Shakespeare favourite ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. I must add that this is a contemporary take on the original masterpiece, with a few madcap scenes, several troublemaking Pucks and a wonderful choice of music that brought several laughs. Being a Fringe 2020 show it is NOT a serious presentation of the classic. This fun staging has been produced by Sarah Lewis and brought to you by Modicum Theatre Perth, an independent company theatre group that is building a strong reputation for its adventurous approach to the classics.
The show takes place in the old hospital’s Kitchen Building at the Heathcote Cultural Precinct, 60 Duncraig Road in Applecross. This intimate production is not simply ‘in the around’ but within the audience. This most interesting and novel performance takes place throughout all the rooms and environs of the kitchen building.
The 75-minute experience is highly entertaining but requires the audience to constantly move around (the building is about 25 metres square), exploring the forest and village locations or following their favourite characters. Every member of the audience will chose their own story thread, route and speed of ambulating. A few seats have been supplied in each area of the venue. The Kitchen Building is single story and there is a step into the place that may prevent full access, but once inside the floor is flat.
The numerous sets from the Great Hall to Titania’s intimate bower were designed by Jamie Cook. He used heavy drapes and multicoloured fairy lights to show the no-go areas. The sets included enchanted corridors of muslin with twinkling lights and a creepy throne room. The ‘play within a play’ was enacted on the lawn by three or four of the Mechanicals.
Sound Designer Ryan Partridge and Lighting Designer Sarah Lewis were helped in the massive and complex task of getting cables to the correct areas of the building by set designer Jamie Cook. UV lighting was used extensively in dark scenes, making the unusual props glow. The UV also brought to life the Mechanicals’ tattoos and body art.
The Stage Manager Ari Rahim and his assistant stage manager Amber Jantjies, had to plan well in advance; as for the audience, they could only observe one or two of the several scenes in action at any time. Incredibly, the show ran very smoothly.
Theseus, the Duke of Athens (Andrea Kendrick), is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Ryan Partridge) by nipping into the forest with her for a quick pre-nuptial treat. However, the nobleman Egeus (Hayley Lyons) and two young men, Demetrius (Aaron Hamilton) and Lysander (Leigh Fitzpatrick) interrupt them.
Egeus would like his daughter Hermia (Bee Tandy) to marry Demetrius but he loves Hermia. Unfortunately Hermia is actually in love with Lysander and so adamantly refuses. If Hermia disobeys her father’s wishes, she may be sent to a convent or even executed.
Hermia and Lysander elope the following night. Hermia tells her best friend Helena (Law Collins) – who still loves Demetrius – of her marriage plans. Helena and Demetrius then follow the eloping couple unto the woods.
In the same woods is a frollick of fairies who are controlled by the Fairy King, Oberon (Ryan Partridge) and his Queen, Titania (Andrea Kendrick), who intend to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta.
Also in the woods is a band of Athenian rustics, Snout (Felix Camponovo), Flute (Megan Lilley) and Puck (Hayley Lyons) who are under the supervision of their director and producer, Quince (Beck Thorman). Most of the various craftsmen have little desire to supply the entertainment for the Duke’s wedding but the weaver, Bottom (Hannah Anderson) is willing and enthusiastic to play ALL of the parts in their play.
The play’s lateral thinking director was Steph Ferguson; who has filled the well-acted play with fun and extra events; such as Helena and Hermia’s catfight, followed by a hilarious blundering version of Bottom’s play. Then, Lysander and Demetrius have their own way of showing their machismo.
The cast was enthusiastic and totally charged up. Despite having to ‘work’ the whole building, the actors’ drive did not slow for a second. The leads all gave strong performances, terrific. Felix had his own unique, comical warm-up routine for the audience and Megan had her special dance as the final climax – or did she? The craftsmen produced some madcap comedy that worked very well. Hannah captured the audience with her Bottom – perhaps this should be rephrased.
The Mechanicals’ costumes were colourful and different, Titania’s daring, but Helena and Hermia’s outfits were plain emphasising their serious character status.
It is quite important to know the story well, because moving around the venue one often saw scenes out of order or context. Having said this, it was a good fun show, with heaps of action and at 75 minutes just the right length. If it is a cool night then wrap up well as some scenes are outside. A fascinating and different approach to an old favourite. Recommended, guaranteed to bring a smile.