Galway Arts Festival week two

Theatre reviews:

Richard Dempsey as Titania in Propeller’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Richard Dempsey as Titania in Propeller’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BRISBANE’S CIRCA troupe were among the main attractions in week two of the Galway Arts Festival with their latest show, Furioso and they fully lived up to the expectations generated by their visits to Galway in 2007 and 2008.

Pitched somewhere between the spheres of circus arts and dance, the show was a mesmerising exhibition of physical virtuosity, grace and strength as the five superb performers combined in a succession of lithe, energetic configurations.

Spontaneous bursts of applause testified to the audience’s delight and wonderment throughout the show and its conclusion was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation. Hats off to director Yaron Lifschitz and his remarkable quintet of performers; Chelsea McGuffin, David Carberry, Jesse Scott, Emma Serjeant, and Lachlan MacAulay.

The visit of Edward Hall’s acclaimed all-male Shakespeare ensemble Propeller, with the double bill of The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummner Night’s Dream, was also much anticipated.

Hall located Merchant in a harsh, grim prison setting which intensified the atmosphere of hostility and threat between its rival factions, while the female roles become feminised men who have assumed such roles to find their own niche in the prison hierarchy. It is not a production for all tastes and, notwithstanding the fine ensemble work of the cast, this reviewer found it to be uninvolving.

Not so with A Midsummner Night’s Dream, however, which brought the curtain down on this year’s festival in terrific style. This was a wonderful, richly imaginative, and funny rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most oft-performed works. It was a thorough delight from start to finish.

Among its embarrassment of riches were Jon Trenchard’s Puck, Bob Barrett’s Bottom, Richard Frame’s Hermia, and Richard Clothier and Richard Dempsey as Oberon and Titania. Overall though, it was the superb ensemble work that really impressed, as cast members also sang, danced, and provided musical accompaniment throughout the play.

As with Furioso, A Midsummner Night’s Dream received a rapturous and fully merited standing ovation.

As the dust settles on another hurly-burly, wild, and wonderful arts fortnight, I would pick A Midsummner Night’s Dream as one of the three best things I saw in this year’s festival, the other two being Druid’s terrific Gigli Concert and the New York Dolls’ exhilarating, swashbuckling gig in the Róisín Dubh.

Kudos to Paul Fahy and his team for this year’s line-up and here’s to 2010!


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