Ballet review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Canberra Theatre Centre

A charming and exquisite production, Queensland Ballet’s interpretation of the Shakespeare classic is likely to bring a little bit of magic to your evening, and certainly a laugh.
A Midsummer Night's Dream. Image is of ballet dancers against a black backdrop, fairies all reaching up with one arm and the other reaching down, behind two principals - a male in black and a female in traditional white tutu - in the same pose.

It turns out if there is one thing that will get Canberrans out on a weeknight (in black tie, no less), it is the Queensland Ballet. As the final stop on its regional tour, Queensland Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has whirled into the capital and is dazzling audiences into the night.

From the moment the curtains open, there is whimsy and delight. Spritely Fairies dance onto the stage in glittery costumes, gilded with fairy wings. Lucy Green shines as Titania, right down to the bedazzled French roll she sports in her hair. Victor Estévez commands the stage as Oberon, gliding throughout the intricate set as the lighting morphs to his every mood.

Tracy Grant Lord’s stunning set transforms the stage at the Canberra Theatre into an enchanted forest, seemingly stretching out endlessly into a dark, brooding ambience. The set is made all the more mesmerising by Kendall Smith’s lighting design. Striking mushroom-shaped lights, extending beyond the thrust of the stage, bring the audience into the woodland scene and a starry sky is set over the stage.

The real star is perhaps Kohei Iwamoto’s Puck, whose impeccable musical and comedic timing has the audience chuckling. It is no easy feat to make classical ballet humorous, but Liam Scarlett’s precise and borderline slapstick choreography certainly rises to the occasion. There are some great moments of physical comedy as the dancers play off each other and roll across the stage.

Beautiful and ornate pas de deux between Mia Heathcote’s Hermia and Alexander Idaszak’s Lysander left this reviewer with tears in their eyes, only to be giggling the very next moment as Georgia Swan’s Helena and Vito Bernasconi’s Demetrius ripped across the stage.

Rian Thomson’s Bottom is another comedic highlight, and shows the dancer’s breadth of talent, executing complex temp du flèche (hitch kicks) while wearing a donkey costume, and rescuing a minor prop malfunction with expert skill and speed.

The Rustics bring out a slew of hilarious and charming props, from butterfly nets to a flashing film camera. Their costumes have a Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom-esque quality to them, equal parts kitsch and campy. The ensemble segments with the Rustics and the Fairies are some of the most special in the show, and there were times when this reviewer was left wanting more of these great moments and electrifying jumps. Yet any unevenness with pacing is quickly forgotten in the extravagant conclusion, where the plot resolves and Titania and Oberon dance their spellbinding wedding march.

Read: Book review: Ballet Confidential by David McAllister

A charming and exquisite production, Queensland Ballet’s interpretation of the Shakespeare classic is likely to bring a little bit of magic to your evening, if not, certainly a laugh.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A co-production between Queensland Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet
Choreographer: Liam Scarlett
Music Arranger: Nigel Gaynor
Music: Felix Mendelssohn
Lighting Designer: Kendall Smith
Revival Lighting Designer: Cameron Goerg
Set and Costume Designer: Tracy Grant Lord
Cast: Lucy Green, Victor Estévez, Kohei Iwamoto, Mia Heathcote, Alexander Idaszak, Georgia Swan, Vito Bernasconi, Rian Thompson, Bronte Kielly-Coleman, Chiara Gonzalez, Libby-Rose Niederer, Vanessa Morelli, Polly Doolan
Fairies: Heidi Freeman, Renee Freeman, Kaho Kato, Briana McAllen, Kayla Van Den Bogert, Sophie Zoricic
Rustics: D’Arcy Brazier, Shaun Curtis, Luke DiMattina, Lewis Formby, Liam Geck, Dylan Lackey, Ari Thompson

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed until 28 October at Canberra Theatre Centre; tickets $85-$119.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Ava Cadee is a Lebanese-Australian law student, writer and poet. She is originally from Boorloo (so-called Perth), and currently lives and works on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land (so-called Canberra).