Arguably William Shakespeare's most famous comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream is the perfect primer for summer theatre in Aotearoa.
Packed with thwarted lovers fleeing city boundaries, woodland faeries engaging in all sorts of love-potion shenanigans, and conveniently, a play-within-a-play by a group of enthusiastic, if untrained, amateurs; the close to three-hour-long production makes for a perfect balmy night out beneath the stars.
Besotted lovers Hermia (Max Loban) and Lysander (Will Alexander) decide they must flee the city of Athens or face Hermia's exile or execution.
As the lovers venture beyond the city limits, they are followed by two others. Demetrius (Patrick Carroll) is Hermia's father's preferred choice of son-in-law and is quick to rush to the woods to woo back his beloved while Helena (Thomas Wingfield) follows in dogged determination to win Demetrius.
These performances are almost flawless. Endless energy, witty verbal barbs and brilliant physicality, allows the Bard's words to roll of their tongues with charming ease and simplicity.
Their world stands in stark contrast to that of the faerie realm where Oberon (Jason Te Kare) and Titania (Edward Peni) find themselves in an argument. Regal and demanding, our faerie realm is firmly set in Te Ao Maori with the king, queen and the impish Puck (Reuben Butler) bringing humour, lyricism and kapa haka to their performances – given entirely in te reo.
This emphasis on creating a kiwiana production (while still honouring traditions such as an all-male cast) also invites the play's third group, an am-dram group, to play tradies in high-vis, adding another successful, if slightly stereotypical, layer.
Mike Edward, as Nick Bottom, and Peter Daube, as Peter Quince, also deserve special mention for their exceptional performances.
However, it is Butler who is unquestionably the standout performer of the night and Beez Te Waati's influence, both in the movement and the fight choreography, is to be highly commended.
Shona Tawhiao's costumes are also in keeping with a pre-colonial era and maximises the use of natural fibres while still bringing a contemporary look to her envisioning of the patupaiarehe.
Pop-up Globe artistic director Dr Miles Gregory and Dream associate director Te Kohe Tuhaka took on an ambitious task. Shakespeare (almost inextricable from its colonial, racial, privileged and often misogynistic contexts) Te Ao Maori and classic kiwiana are brought to the stage in various guises.
Sitting awkwardly in balance at times, it is nevertheless a positive step towards genuine inclusivity and makes this production highly memorable.
Overall, a sweet summer night of wonder, delight and wit! Ka Rawe!
What: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Where and when: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Racecourse; until March 31.
Reviewer: Dione Joseph