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Liam Scarlett's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Queensland Ballet, Melbourne

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Liam Scarlett's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a magical delight. The ground is of course well covered, by Ashton and Balanchine as well as others, but Scarlett manages a unique take. The narrative is pared right back (as with Ashton): Oberon and Titania quarrel over the foundling boy, played by Jules Missell with a cheeky sparkle that is not hidden by his enveloping onesy. And, perhaps to reassure those of us who had wondered just why Oberon wanted the boy so badly, Titania and Oberon finally unite in returning the boy to the place in which he was found. Meanwhile, the four lovers and the mechanicals together become explorers searching the forest for heaven only knows what, and Puck makes mayhem as he tries to remedy lovers' quarrels. Rian Thompson makes a surprisingly endearing Bottom. I don't know if it is appropriate to talk of chemstry between Bottom with his asses' ears, and Titania, but if it wasn't chemistry I need another word.

I have in the past not warmed to Principal Dancer Victor Estevez, but as Oberon he was riveting. His Oberon was commanding and authoritative, with something of the wizard about him. He dominated the rather cramped stage with great leaps and glorious arm gestures, high and wide. In contrast, Laura Hidalgo's Titania was gentle and romantic, while not sacrificing her authority. Their pdds included multiple beautiful high lifts that emphasised their affinity with the air and the magical. The fairies were delightful, dressed in deep blue powderpuffs (I really can't call them tutus), skimming across the stage and huddling in tight, excited groups. Kohei Iwamoto gave us an irrepressible Puck, bounding back from each setback with an endearing shrug and a startling leap.

The human characters, in contrast, were much more earth-bound, not withstanding the romanticism of Hermia, beautifully danced by Yanela Pinera, and Lysander (Joel Woellner).  Great chemistry there! The slapstick that characterised Helena (Mia Heathcote) and Demitrius (Alexander Idaszak) belied the complexity of their choreography, while the rustics were, well, rustic. The set itself, the work of Tracy Grant Lord, emphasised the difference between magical and mundane. It was a wonderful set, think Avatar's Pandorra, overseen by the outline of a huge full moon, and offering lofty vantage points from which Oberon could survey his realm, while Puck variously slid down a pole from his erie, and, on one spectacular occassion, swung down on a rope. The mortal characters were restricted to ground level. 

My main gripe was with the character of Helena. In the second decade of the 21st century, do we really need a bespectacled, man-chasing nurd? Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses? Please!!

In spite of this, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a wonderful ballet, and one that Li Cunxin is proudly taking to China in November. I just hope that while it is not scheduled for Brisbane in 2019, it makes a return to the lineup in 2020.

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You're right. Yes, it was. In my very real enthusuasm for the ballet, I forgot to talk about its origins, which involve a request from Ethan Steifel, then AD of New Zealand Ballet, to Liam Scarlett. And after having worked with QB to present the ballet, Scarlett became Artistic Associate in 2016. A real coup for AD Li Cunxin. Earlier this year QB presented his Firebird, which I loved, and in 2019, they will be presenting his Dangerous Liaisons. 

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Awww I so wanted to see this but couldn't get to Melbourne at the right time!


Thank you so much @jmb for this detailed review.


Lovely to see Mia Heathcote (who "took over" Queensland Ballet's Instagram on Saturday) doing so well (she was also cast as Titania). I remember seeing her as Clara the Child in the Murphy Nutcracker - Story of Clara as long ago as 2009 with Marilyn Jones as Clara the Elder and at one performance Lucinda Dunn and a second Danielle Rowe as Clara the Ballerina. Then in a short Tim Harbour piece called Sweedeedee in 2012, the cast of which was retired principals Justine Summers and Steven Heathcote, with two ABS students - Heathcote M (what is the BCF protocol for referring to two dancers of the same family in the same paragraph?) and a boy whose name I can't remember as all my pre-2013 programmes and cast lists are in storage. Summers did not look great, very thin, I could hear shocked whispers from older fans around me. However, her character was obviously meant to be fragile, so it sort of worked. Heathcote S was his usual wonderfully warm presence. Wish I could remember the boy's name. The music was fabulous - a collection of old songs played by a live band, chosen by Harbour and arranged by Chong Lim.


I saw the TV interview last week on ABC Breakfast with Li Cunxin and Heathcote M, gosh she must get tired of non-ballet-watching-interviewers-who've-been-briefed talking about her father!

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