Article Title:Review: Naughty fairies in Shakespeare's dreamy comedy
Author or Credit:Matt Akersten
Published on:14th March 2008 - 01:15 am
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Story ID:5700
Text:The fairy King and Queen, with naughty servant Puck Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream 7:30pm, 12 March - 29 March 2008 Drama Studio, Arts Building, 14a Symonds Street, Auckland. Cost: $18 adults; $15 concessions. Phone (09) 373 7599 ext 84226 It's Shakespeare, but it's on fast-forward. And if you're Jack Seabrook as Puck the Hobgoblin, it's all on your tippy-toes. Welcome to A Midsummer Night's Dream at the University of Auckland. "It's one of those plays that everyone knows," asserts director Patrick Graham in the production's programme notes. Whoops - I confess I hadn't experienced it before! But after a quick read of the handy synopsis on the page opposite, I had a fair idea what I'd be in for. Lots of fairy in-fighting and love triangles… it would be just like a night out at Family bar, but with wittier language. To appeal to a younger audience of shorter attention spans, the over-400-year-old play has been edited and sped up - so there's not much chance for the actors to take a breath between running around, screaming and falling over each other. All the actors do an amazing job reciting their complicated speeches, ancient text tumbling out of their mouths at high-speed. I was promised high-camp costume design, and I was not let down in that area. A small budget seemed to have been stretched to the limit - with Oberon's lovely long coat and the 'Wall' outfit towards the end being highlights. All the fairies looked cute in their pink T-Shirts and fluffy matching hats. The Bjork-sampled music gets a little repetitive, and the set design is basic, with a hypnotic swirly pattern on the wall and floor evoking the dreamy theme of the work. I had to laugh at the point when four characters are lulled into sleep lying down around the stage - when there was a perfectly comfortable bed in the corner lying empty! Paul Letham as Oberon There were no bad performances, but a couple of actors shone out for me. Paul Letham had a genuine flair for comedy as Theseus, and I'm sure his humorous extra touches will only continue to improve as the play's season progresses. And even as he'll no doubt exhaust himself out as the evenings roll on, Jack Seabrook gives a memorable performance as Puck - all on tip-toe, with a piercing cry, ever-present cheeky giggle, and drama-inducing love-juices. "The course of true love never did run smooth," runs the most famous line from A Midsummer Night's Dream. That's true, and this adaptation of the play is even more complicated, with a servant now also a sex-slave, and some liberties taken with gender roles throughout. There's plenty of subtext to have fun with in what is widely regarded as one of Shakespeare's most homoerotic plays. But if the convoluted interlinking plotlines leave your head spinning for the first hour, you'll be relieved about the out-and-out comedy conclusion. The ridiculous play-within-a-play is a welcome crowd-pleaser of slap-stick carrying on - it really ends the production on a high. I just hope the cast don't end up too bruised after all the tumbling about! A Midsummer Night's Dream runs until Saturday 29 March in Auckland University's Drama Studio, to raise funds for their Outdoor Summer Shakespeare. So enjoy an exciting evening in Fairyland while you can. Matt Akersten - 14th March 2008    
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