Since premiering in Brisbane in 2016, Queensland Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has delighted audiences around the state and beyond.

Back in Brisbane for a two-week season, this is a welcome opportunity to revisit this beautiful and bewitching ballet, created as a co-production with Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2015.

It’s also portentous, marking new artistic director Leanne Benjamin’s first mainstage production and  a bittersweet homage to its late choreographer and QB artistic associate Liam Scarlett, who died tragically in 2021.

In each aspect, opening night’s performance was an unqualified success. This remount involves many who’d worked closely with Scarlett, including Benjamin, when he was artist-in-residence at The Royal Ballet.

The desire to honour the work, a lost colleague and friend, and their incoming leader, seemed to sprinkle extra fairy dust on proceedings, making the whole experience feel even more magical.

The ballet’s opening transports us to a lush fantastical forest filled with luminous fibre optic flowers and pods and canopies in iridescent peacock-tones that are echoed in the fairies’ costumes. Tracy Grant Lord’s design and Kendall Smith’s lighting really ignite the imagination.

Ruling this realm are the imperious Oberon and his elegant and strong-willed queen Titania – a passionate and fiery match. Principal artists Joel Woellner and Lucy Green are an equally formidable pair with commanding physical poise and prowess.

Scarlett’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy retains the key plot points of misdirected ardour and the other characters involved: Oberon’s mischievous apprentice Puck; the quartet of young lovers Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius; and the mechanicals or rustics, led by Bottom. The lovers are presented as explorers in search of scientific specimens.

Whether or not you know what’s coming when Bottom is transformed into an ass (the donkey variety) and the young suitors reverse their affections, the physical humour is hilariously depicted and executed with spot-on timing.

With a retinue of pawing, shimmying and prancing, yet again Rian Thomson reigns as the company’s king of anthropomorphosis.

Heightening Helena’s gawky awkwardness as a besotted bespectacled nerd is a gift for Georgia Swan to play and viewers to enjoy.

And while we’re used to seeing senior soloist Kohei Iwamoto whirl and leap with quicksilver speed and precision, his genuinely funny facial expressions as Puck are a revelation.

In between the mayhem, there are passages of glorious and articulate movement clearly depicting character traits, emotional states, intentions and narrative. Reflecting Scarlett’s impeccable musicality, it’s all perfectly tailored to the Mendelssohn score arranged by conductor Nigel Gaynor and vibrantly performed live by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra.

Running two hours including interval, the ballet succinctly captures the Dream’s special potion of fantasy, comedy and romance. Observing its rapt reception, it was impossible to celebrate Scarlett’s creative legacy without also feeling sad about how many more incredible works he might have made.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues at the Playhouse, QPAC, until April 27.

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