Learning our own Little Theatre, The Shambles, was to be the setting of a steampunk version of A Midsummer Night's Dream was, admittedly, a worry.

Best estimates have Shakespeare penning it somewhere between 1590 and 1596, punk rock began to make its presence felt in the early 1970s so how can these dates possibly marry up? They don't.

Accordingly, it's a huge relief to know that and to discover Bard purists don't have a jot to worry about modern-day tinkering with the words of this man of wonderful words. Shambles Theatres' long-time director Remo Royall Malcolm's taken care of that.

The steampunk aspect is confined to the wardrobe department and set designers.


It's not often the backstage crew get a pat on the back but these deserve a bear hug.

Costumes have been tailored to dovetail with the dream sequences. Puck in purple and black striped tights is a sight to behold as are the goggles worn on the tops of the heads of many key players, the first act's colourful wee fairies included.

But none of this goggles, boots, bowler hats and laced bodices stuff detracts from the Bard's lines so many of us wrestled with at school.

Aeons on those of a certain age are left wondering whatever tinkly herb "plucked from a bank where the wild thyme blows" Shakespeare imbibed before fashioning this dreamy storyline.

Translated into today's terms, and probably in his day too, it was something hallucinogenic. Who's complaining?

A Midsummer Night's Dream is, and always has been, pure fantasy and its Shambles rendition has faithfully kept it that way thanks to Malcolm and her class act cast of 24, not counting those tiny fairies.

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Not so long ago local theatre, musical and amateur drama was bemoaning the lack of young talent to nurture. The pendulum's swung, A Midsummer Night's Dream is bursting with players making their stage debut alongside some of the theatre's names of yore (as Shakespeare would say).

To be fair to all, it took a stab of a pin to name only three newbies, Nethmi Karunanayake (Hermia) and Oliver Temm (Lysander). and Warna Karunanayake as the mischievous sprite Puck.

From the 'old school' comes Tim Eardly (Theseus, Duke of Athens) and Richard Rugg starring as Bottom the Ass. His deep chested hee-haws confirm this was the role he was born to play.

Normally, this could be classed as a rave review, regrettably, it garners a sour note that's nothing to do with play or performers. It's a barb directed at the audience, more precisely the lack of it.

So far the season's drawn pitifully small numbers. Even if you consider yourself far too cool for Shakespeare, take a punt on the possibility you may be surprised how entertaining his work can be when delivered by local performers.

The details
What: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Where: Shambles Theatre
When: Until February 16, Wednesday to Saturday 7.30 pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.
Cost: Adults $29.15, seniors $24.58, students $16.38, tickets from Eventfinda.