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THEATRE: 23 SEPTEMBER 2014

By GRAEME WILLINGHAM

The Dream, Bell Shakespeare, Melbourne Arts Centre, until October 4. Bookings www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Dreamers, fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, November 6-30. Bookings fortyfivedownstairs.com

The Sublime, Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Arts Centre, until October 4. Bookings www.mtc.com.au

The Dream is for real, really good theatre

The Dream, Bell Shakespeare’s fresh look at Shakespeare’s everlasting comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be a big hit with Melbourne theatregoers — of all ages — because of its excellent casting, Shakespearean language clarity, on-stage vitality and captivating sense of fun.

This 90-minute performance carries just eight actors, all, apart from Julie Forsyth as Puck, playing two or three characters as the play moves from Bottom and his Mechanicals very amateur theatre group to Theseus’s court, where the love story begins its dark entanglement of jealously, cruelty and betrayal.

Appropriately, at close, when everyone returns to normal, Bottom’s amateur group performs its play within a play at the wedding ceremony. It’s silly, but funny, so at curtain applause is wrapped by broad smiles across the audience.

There was no weak link in the acting chain here for director Peter Evans. Standouts for us were Nikki Shiels as Helena and Starveling (at the opening night drinks, we overheard a long-time supporter of Bell Shakespeare describing her performance as “the best annunciation of Shakespeare he has ever heard”). Evergreen Richard Piper was in his clownish element as Bottom while Julie Forsyth is fabulous as Puck.

They were well supported by Ray Chong Nee (Theseus/Oberon/Flute), Janine Watson (Hippolyta/ Titania/Quince), Johnny Carr (Demetrius/Snout), Lucy Honigman (Hermia/Snug) and Gareth Reeves (Lysander/Mechanical).

This play was light relief after MTC’s world premiere of Brendan Cowell’s dark and confronting The Sublime (“what happens on the footy trip stays on the footy trip”) we saw a few days earlier. Our theatre group of 14 thought this one of the better MTC plays we have seen this year, although one member hated every minute of it because of the script’s continuous explicit sexual expression.

And there is more “dream” themed theatre on its way in Melbourne with the announcement today of the cast for the Australian premiere of Dreamers, by Daniel Keene and directed by Ariette Taylor at fortyfivedownstairs (November 6-30) — Helen Morse (Anne), Paul English (The Ticket Inspector), Marco Chiappi (The Foreman), Jonathan Taylor (The Waiter), Natasha Herbert (Eva), Nicholas Bell (Claude), Brigid Gallacher (Carole), and Yomal Rajasinghe (Majid).

According to fortyfivedownstairs, Dreamers deals with questions at the heart of contemporary life — the struggle against intolerance, the fear of difference and a love that is perceived as inappropriate. Dreamers explores a young man’s experience trying to establish himself in a new country, amid growing fear and animosity as he begins a relationship with an older woman who is also familiar with isolation and loneliness. Doesn’t appear this dream is a laughing matter.