A Midsummer Night in Sydney

25 January 2011

“I have had a most rare vision.
I have had a dream,
past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”

Hi Sydney!

sydney shakespeare festivalLast Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Sydney Shakespeare Festival, an annual celebration of the bards work set outdoors amongst some of Sydney’s best outdoor spaces.

Now in it’s fourth year the festival is this year performing Romeo and Juliet as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream on alternate evenings throughout January and February. And it was Midsummer Night’s Dream that friends and I trouped along to see.

The play is performed near the Glebe foreshore in Bicentennial Park with a fairly stark stage surrounded by picnicking families. The production makes use of all the space around them, moving amongst the crowd and any starkness to the stage is in perfect juxtaposition to the sights of the park at dusk, the reflection off the water and the city’s skyline in the distance that becomes illuminated as the play progresses.

Glebe foreshore

Now, I imagine most of you would be familiar with the story of star crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet, but in case you’re unfamiliar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream it’s about a bunch of young lovers – some comical – a troupe of actors and some faeries all getting mixed up in each others affairs over the course of one night in the woods. There’s heartbreak, jokes, humans turned into animals and love spells a plenty – but mostly it’s a lot of good fun.

The best bit of seeing a play in this atmosphere, especially one of Shakespeare’s comedies, was the family element – we were surrounded by groups of all ages and it was great to see children laughing along to the antics of man with the head of a donkey while the parents enjoyed the word play and commentary on love. Also, as the play went on one of the biggest moons I’ve ever seen rose over the city skyline – truly magical!

Glebe food preparationsRemember though, this isn’t a catered event so it’s best to come prepared! My friends and I brought a picnic basket and blanket with cold meat, rolls, cheeses, drinks and snacks – more than enough to last us through the play. And don’t pass up the opportunity to chat to those around you – if you get there early to get a good seat you’ll have some time then and in the intermission to get to know the neighbours.

The performance was a lot of fun – the characters of Helena, Bottom and Puck were certainly stand outs – but whether your a Shakespeare devotee or novice it’s a great night out. We certainly had a great night under the stars and I suggest you head along!

As I mentioned above, the Sydney Shakespeare Festival runs each Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through until the end of February. More information can be found on the events website. If you’re still in the mood for Shakespeare this summer there’s also the Shakespeare by the Sea performances in Balmoral and Shakespeare Festival at Norman Lindsay Gallery in Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains.

Do you have a favourite play, or recall the best performance you’ve ever seen in Sydney? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

~ Sydney Sider