News, Reviews, Theatre

No rain on the Dream’s parade

Pop-up Globe, A Midsummer Night’s Dream ·
Crown Perth, 11 November ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·

Another night, another play… thoughtful tragedy, one night; uproarious comedy the next; clear, starry skies for Hamlet, relentless rain on the Dream. The Pop-up Globe has got the lot and the common denominator is that, come rain, hail, or moonglow, the show goes.

The enthusiasm of the crowd was far from dampened by the persistent showers on the opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the folk in the pit, with supplied ponchos, were ready to party. It added enormously to the atmosphere to what is already a very atmospheric venue.

Pop-up has two companies performing in repertory. The Exeter’s Company is performing the Dream and Twelfth Night, while the Nottingham’s Company takes on Hamlet and Measure for Measure. The concept, while offering more work for more actors (always a good thing), is attractive from an audience perspective too –  there is always something new and intriguing to discover.

Anatonio Te Maioha as Oberon, embracing Renaye Tamati (Titania).

So it is with Exeter’s Dream. After the youthful brooding of the previous night’s Hamlet, director Miles Gregory’s full-on assault of the Dream’s gender wars was a sight to behold.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t dwell long in the marble halls of Athens, first of the play’s two settings, and quickly heads for the hills and anarchy of the world of the “fairies” led by Titania and Oberon. Certainly, the laughs are all there but the comparison between the two settings is important.

Theseus’s Athens is power and order – for him. The forest is a creature of a different shape altogether. Here Titania calls the shots… mostly.

So hugely significant, then, is Gregory’s opening scene of Theseus dragging in his captured bride, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, through the crowd, bound and gagged. If we weren’t going to spend much time in this place, it was a great conveyor of how business was conducted there.

Not surprisingly that what follows is a father declaring he would rather his daughter dead than to marry a man he hadn’t chosen for her. Thus, the antecedence of the absolutely hilarious, loveable quartet of lovers, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, is born from this darkness.

All four players nailed this. Rebecca Rogers’ Hermia was a brittle diamond, Ruby Hansen’s Helena was shimmering, gibbering neurosis, Harry Bradley’s Lysander was a fabulous Eton mess of a thing and Simon Rodda’s Demetrius was, well, quite slimy. They took these attitudes through the cobbled streets of Athens, through the murky swamps and thorns of the relationship forest and out the other side, still keeping their essential selves. Loved it!

The Mechanicals are Shakespeare’s gift to the world. Led by Peter Hambleton’s Bottom, almost literally, they are the joy that gives air to this crazy, crazy play.

The Mechanicals are the joy that gives air to this crazy, crazy play. Held aloft is Sheena Irving as  Starveling.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this production was the magic created by the language of Titania’s and Oberon’s forest. Here the otherworldliness comes in the lyrical sounds of te reo Maori spoken by Anatonio Te Maioha’s Oberon, Renaye (Ngati Kahungunu/Te Atiawa/Kai Tahu) Tamati’s Titania and Eds (Ngapuhi) Eramiha’s Puck.

And not just the odd outbreak – almost the entire engagement is exquisitely rendered, led entirely by some great acting of voice and body. Not a drop was spilt – well maybe we were missing a foundling or two, but if anything is incidental in the fiery relationship of Oberon and Titania, it is probably the kid.

Here the enslaved Hippolyta transforms into Titania’s wild dervish, and the masculine certainty of Theseus is completely undone in Oberon, who learns that every action has an effect that cannot be controlled.

And Puck! A success of a performance of the Dream, I reckon, rests largely on the chemistry of the Quartet and the interpretation of Puck. I have seen some nasty Pucks in my day. Eramiha’s good hearted, bit of a bumbler, bit of a chancer but helluva dancer Puck set the tone of this good natured and thoroughly entertaining show.

Nothing rained on its parade.

So, Pop-up, two out of two. Two to go!

Pop-up Globe’s Perth season (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night) runs until October 27.

Pictured top is Anatonio Te Maioha as Oberon.

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