What: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Where: Auckland University, Old Arts Plaza
When: Until March 7
With Michael Hurst at the helm the Summer Shakespeare strikes an appealing balance between the finesse of a fully professional production and the anarchic exuberance of students having a bit of a lark.
The brilliantly inventive stagecraft energises a uniformly excellent cast who bring a clear sense of purpose to the smallest details of their performances - most notably when the lovers lose themselves in the woods and give free reign to their wildly deranged passions.
Among the many fine performances, Anthea Hill wins sympathy by finding an ironic Bridget Jones vibe for Helena's self-pity, while Natasha Daniel's Hermia is full of spunky defiance.
Patrick Graham's extravagantly grandiloquent Bottom provides a comic highlight and Jeremy Fraser-Hoskin amusingly portrays Flute as a surly Grammar boy casually engrossed in his cellphone.
Callum Blackmore's jazzy musical score is used to great effect, especially when the fairies, played by a zany troupe of senior citizens, deliver a doo-wop inflected lullaby that recalls the irrepressible spirit of the choir in Young@Heart.
The text is liberally embellished with cleverly timed fragments of contemporary speech and while this device is in accord with Shakespeare's populist instincts it does suggests a lack of confidence in the audience's willingness to engage with the comedy inherent in the script.
Hurst's sophisticated interpretation emphasises the sinister aspect of Oberon as King of the Shadows, with Alistair Browning bringing a relentlessly cynical edge to the fairy chief that is enhanced by Amber-Rose Henshall's presentation of Puck as a sexually provocative punk rocker.
By blurring the boundaries between the transcendent realm of the dream and the gritty reality of the wide-awake world, Hurst highlights the psychological complexity of the play but diminishes the sense of enchantment that comes when the fantastical elements are allowed to conjure up their own clearly differentiated space.