Shakespeare by the Bay – Bard on the Beach
Season: 10 – 19 April 2015
Bookings: http://watsonsbayhotel.com.au/whats-on or buy tickets by the gate.
Shakespeare crafted A Midsummer Night’s Dream to entertain, by nature of a comedy. I think if he saw his play being shared with the audience on picnic rugs and eating nibbles in utter amusement, he would be thoroughly impressed by theatre companies’ ability to adapt to suit today’s audience, maintaining the relevant presentation of his theatrical masterpieces. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is renowned for its ethereal forest setting, home to an array of fairies and the tumultuous love story between Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius. In light of this, Robertson Park at Watson’s Bay serves as an ideal setting for Shakespeare by the Bay, powered by Bard on the Beach Theatre Company, in conjunction with The Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel and Woollahra Council. A great opportunity to unveil your kids to the world of Shakespeare in a natural environment, or just a magical night of alternative theatre, Shakespeare by the Bay is a wonderful experience.
A pitfall of outdoor theatre is the limitations of voice projection, however I was pleasantly surprised that dialogue was audible during virtually the entire play, only crowded out by the occasional ferry leaving the bay or other background noise. This added character to the theatrical experience, testing the actors’ ability to convey emotion and a story without always relying on dialogue and vocal variation. Some of the actors had difficulty performing with subtlety on the stage considering their requirements to perform in a space where energy easily dissipates, which tended to reduce some performances to a more superficial level. Josh Wiseman achieved subtlety in his portrayal of Demetrius and Francis Flute, resulting in a highly engaging and believable performance.
Humour was utilised to great audience satisfaction, notably in the performance of the four lovers, as well as in Bottom’s performance, acted by Martin Estridge. The cast played with the comedy evident in the text, as well as elaborating upon ideas to create unique humour. Each actor took on multiple roles, a credit to each of the actors. Notably, Patricia Rowling achieved diverse characterisation as Helena, Titania and Hippolyta, to the extent that I was left questioning whether it was a different actor portraying each role. Costuming aided the actors’ transformation between characters, incorporating primarily traditional Athenian robes. For some characters, glasses were used as a costume piece to distinguish between roles, however I found this to be a weak choice as the lens reflects the stage lighting and acts as a mask between the audience and the actor’s face. Basic set design was employed, using just two Grecian pillars and a flower-laden bed for Titania. This was fitting, choosing to complement the celestial natural backdrop of the parkland and water, and the starry lights of the CBD in the distance.
Shakespeare by the Bay brings forth an unconventional theatrical experience that captures all of the wonder and mystique present in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you can’t make their closing night, the theatre company regularly stages plays on Balmoral Beach during the Summer, true to their name of Bard on the Beach. The show makes for a splendid evening out – in spite of it being autumn now, it truly does make for A Midsummer Night’s Dream of theatre.