On Centre Stage:  A Thoroughly Modern Dream

On Centre Stage
Doug Kennedy

A Thoroughly Modern Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. La Boite Theatre. Stars Emily Burton, Kieran Law. Brian Lipson. Kathryn Marquet, Pacharo Mzembe, Christen O’Leary. Directed and adapted by Benjamin Schostakowski. Runs until March 7. Booking 3007 8600.

A new adaptation of The Bard’s comic classic, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, looks set for a dream run at Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre.

That’s if the reaction from the mainly youthful opening night audience is anything to gauge, although it is fair to say even the vintage critics had a chuckle or two or more.

La Boite nowadays is recognised as Brisbane’s Theatre for the Young – I mean modern, progressive and generally under 40 – and award-winning Benjamin Schostakowski’s action-packed sometimes over-the-top romp is living proof of that.

The promising theatrical guru has taken the show and given it a grand shake-up, which shines brightest in the comic department and certainly puts a rocket up the young lovers.

While the Rustics, or Rude Mechanicals, made up of Bottom and company more often than not get the lion’s share of the laughs, this time around they share the honours with Helena (Emily Burton), Hermia (Kathryn Marquet), Demetrius (Pacharo Mzembe) and Lysander (Kieran Law).

However, that shouldn’t create any jealousies within the cast as the four actors also play Starveling (Burton), Bottom (Law), Snug (Marquet) and Flute (Mzembe).

Likewise Brian Lipson and Christen O’Leary round out the cast as Theseus, Oberon and Quince and Hippolyta, Titania and Snout.

The scaled down concept works in many ways – thanks to the versatility of the actors and the fast moving emphasis on slapstick comedy – but it does create some problems.

They largely surround the representation of the court and the magical elements in the play, which isn’t helped by Dann Barber’s suburban house set and wardrobe creative Leigh Buchanan and Nathalie Ryner’s eclectic costume mix.

The Dream has three substantial elements with the lovers’ stories, the rustic’s bid to stage a play, The Most Lamentable Comedy and the Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe, and finally the magical creatures who weave the magic and make the mayhem.

The world of the characters Oberon,Titania, Puck (who comes into the show via a TV screen) and the fairies becomes somewhat lost in the technical props and the set itself.

Despite those misgivings the overall production was hugely entertaining with highlights including the scenes featuring the drug-affected Titania and Bottom (as an ass), the lovers literally slogging it out and finally the play within a play, featuring a hilarious version of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.

The show has a massive 95-minute first half, and a more contained 45-minute second half, and while director Schostakowski has taken some risks many of the important ones work.

Just ask the young audience at opening night who were obviously having a midsummer ball.

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