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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Trevor Keeling

A sparkling, creative hysterically funny production from TheatreiNQ.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Brendan O’Connor as Puck. Photo by Chrissie Maguire

Lysander loves Hermia, and Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius; Demetrius used to love Helena but now loves Hermia. Eh?

Such is the confusing plot at the centre of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – probably one of the most loved and most performed of all Shakespeare’s comedies, and many a director faces the challenge of putting a fresh spin to it.

Well, Terri Brabon and her team at TheatreiNQ have done just that – it is a production that is sparkling in its visuals, shimmering in its craft and shining in its example of excellent theatre produced in regional Australia. (In fact this production could easily grace any stage – anywhere – and it is a North Queensland product. And why, pray, should one make any apologies for that?)

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Many of us have seen productions of The Dream, and the last one I saw was a beautifully presented Victorian spectacle, complete with all the traditional Mendelssohn music. And while this production included the obligatory Bridal March, this was about all one could say that was traditional about it. That last production I saw was ultimately exceedingly boring – and this was anything but.

From the moments the lights dim in this corner of Townsville’s Queen’s Park, you are invited into this eclectic and surreal world of make-believe, and for the next few hours you are engaged and entertained but ultimately engrossed in an evening of unmitigated hilarity.

It is presented – as all good Shakespeare should be – as a glorious ensemble piece and one is hard put to differentiate between the professional and the community actor – never mind the actor in training which Brabon cleverly combines in her productions.  Of course, this requires a particular skill as director and it is one at which she excels, and the actors relished every funny, lusty moment with great comic timing in this comedy about love, mistaken identities, magic and everyone being in love with everyone else. 

Brendan O’Connor’s Puck is at once wicked, bawdy, anachronistic and thoroughly delightful. His athletic ability had me reaching for the painkillers, and his vocal range was staggering. Terri Brabon’s Titania, Queen of the Fairies, relished every lascivious moment and her version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” must be the best one is ever likely to see!

Hilarity was order of the evening and nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated in the performance of the evening – Rachel Nutchey as Helena. Portraying her as a gawky asthmatic, the performance was filled with wonderful comic nuances and was a joy to witness.

Other performances that were jewels amongst this cornucopia included John Goodson as Bottom giving us a lesson in the art of coarse acting; Sally McCutcheon as Egeus, Robert Street’s campy Peter Quince and the rest of the “cast” of “Pyramus and Thisbe” – presented hysterically as a quintet from The Wizard of Oz! And it all worked – wonderfully.

Shakespeare’s comedies also allow great latitude to bring in contemporary references (not to mention anachronisms), which are introduced with great relish and increasingly hilarious regularity throughout the evening – where else would you see a side-splitting comic Macarena as a finale?

In short, an unforgettable production, expertly crafted, wonderfully performed and enjoyed by all.

5 stars out of 5

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Terri Brabon

Queen’s Gardens, Townsville
12 – 24 September

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Trevor Keeling has been involved in the arts and creative industries for 40 years in Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.  He has been an actor, theatre director, journalist and critic, publisher, broadcaster, music festival director, event manager and arts administrator.

Since coming to Australia 25 years ago, he appeared in numerous productions in Adelaide, and was Festival Director of the Glenelg Jazz Festival for six years. Most recently he was General Manager of Dancenorth in Townsville for a total of six years and for three years was CEO of Mirndiyan Gunana Aboriginal Corporation, which included managing the world renowned indigenous Mornington Island Dancers.

He has worked in urban, regional and remote environments in Australia and has a particular focus on regional arts and the connection to community.


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