Theatre Review: The Shakespearean circus is in town, with Brisbane Immersive’s Midsummer Carnival

The Midsummer Carnival is in town, and the big top has set up shop at Brisbane Powerhouse. A troupe of pixies and players invite audiences to wander through their carnival, filled with sideshow games, fortune tellers, and death defying stunts. But hidden amongst the crowd are four young lovers, and as the mischievous Puck sets his sights on them, chaos inevitably ensues.

In The Midsummer Carnival, Brisbane Immersive shift one of Shakespeare’s most famous works from the stage to the sideshow. With the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream re-imagined as players and partakers of a travelling show, audience members move through the space, crafting their own telling of the tale. Visit Titania for a palm reading, join in a rehearsal with the Mechanicals, or help Puck fix the mighty mess he’s made of Hermia and Lysander’s love life. The choice is yours.

For the most part, it’s a huge of amount of fun. There’s certainly an appeal to being able to choose your own adventure, as it were, and with a little over an hour to work with, the company have really honed in on all the play’s key moments. Things are well timed, meaning you’re often ready to move on just as the action in the next room really starts to ramp up. And the combination of contemporary English with the original Shakespeare is also a great move, adding elevated drama at just the right moment.

But the constantly moving nature of the show, while entertaining, does have its problems. With the onus placed on the audience to choose where to go and who to follow, plot lines and characters can get missed. It works if you’re familiar with the source material, but newcomers might struggle to connect the dots in a story that’s all crossed wires and magical mishaps. I somehow managed to miss Demetrius until the very last minute – not ideal when he’s one of the four leads.

But that’s rather the nature of the immersive game, and it’s a game that Brisbane Immersive do play very well. High in energy and perfectly cast (Puck, in particular, is an absolute dream), The Midsummer Carnival is an exciting take on a Shakespearean classic. You might need to brush up on the CliffNotes ahead of the show, but when you’re having this much fun, you won’t mind a plot hole or two.


The Midsummer Carnival is presented by Brisbane Immersive.
Performances are held at Brisbane Powerhouse until February 8th.
Tickets and more information can be found here.

Reviewer attended the performance on Sunday 26th January.

Jodie Sloan

Living, writing, and reading in Brisbane/Meanjin. Likes spooky books, strong cocktails, and pro-wrestling.