4 stars The snow is falling throughout most of director Matthew Lenton's refreshing new look at Shakespeare's darkest of rom-coms. While this takes literally the bard's own scripted notions of how the seasons are out of whack, it opens with a sorry-looking Bottom tending to a terminally ill wife, his only distraction a TV talent show that might just help him and his fellow wannabes live the dream. Given his wife's blessing to chase his muse following a mercy call from Peter Quince, Bottom does exactly that, led on his way by a gaggle of blonde-wigged fairies who resemble peroxided Harpo Marxes. This is accentuated even more when the mechanicals are conjured into similar apparel by Cath Whitefield's wide-eyed Puck, who sprinkles her star-dust with abandon. The quartet of confused lovers, meanwhile, are too wrapped-up in themselves and their colour-coded space-age winter warmers to connect, and Flavia Gusmao's lusty Titania is seriously on the prowl. Taking place on Kai Fischer's huge lop-sided set, Lenton's Dream injects even more fun into the play as it stands. When Hermia and Helena bitch at each other while their prospective partners go bare-chested for a fight that's more cuddle than punch-up, Whitefield's Puck watches while munching on popcorn as if at a movie. For the Mechanicals' final star turn, Jordan Young's hilariously deluded Bottom goes all Hollywood Method, and when his troupe win the competition, their eruption of orchestrated pleasure could be something straight out of an X-Factor finale. It's only when Bottom returns to his ailing wife, however, that things hit home. When the dream fades, the image suggests, reality bites harder than ever.
The Herald, October 25th 2012 ends