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Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Newcastle Theatre Royal

Adventure and imagination arrives at the Theatre Royal Newcastle in the form of Northern Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Northern Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Northern Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream

This slick, humour-filled Northern Ballet adaptation of the famous stage comedy is set in a 1940s world of glamorous train travel and class distinction.

The 20th Century setting lends itself well to Shakespeare’s original Athenian play and director David Nixon offers a fresh interpretation of a piece that has been re-imagined by directors the world over.

The show was created 10 years ago but is revived for the 2013 tour with a cast of world-class dancers.

It opens as the audience take their seats, breaking the Brechtian ‘fourth wall’ with dancers peering out into the auditorium in their roles as a ballet troupe rehearsing.

To Mendelssohn’s score, highly strung lovers try to establish their romantic matches in a prim and proper, albeit grey and sombre world.

The cast are working on a performance of Romeo and Juliet to be taken to Edinburgh and dance spectacularly en-pointe, launched into action by an electric jumping pirouette from ballet master Robin Puck (Kevin Poeung).

The imaginative set gives way to create the flying Scotsman sleeper train, a show-stopping piece of design by Duncan Hayler, and the cast descend into a dream world where Puck’s magic spells criss-cross his dancer’s emotions in an enchanted forest.

The second act becomes a colour-filled riot with leaf-clad fairies in cosmic shades of pink and green dancing under an enormous eye and space rocket.

Amid pockets of farcical sexual gyrating there remains a standard of classical beauty, seen most prominently in the exquisite partner work between Hironao Takahashi’s Theseus and Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s Queen Titania.

Comedy arrives with Pippa Moore’s slapstick Helena who launches herself, and her out-turned feet, vice-like and incessantly onto Demetrius while Bottom clumsily transforms into an awkward, fat-thighed donkey.

Less bombastic than a Matthew Bourne ballet, but with the same hallmarks of adventure and imagination, this A Midsummer Night’s Dream boasts captivating moments of serenity and technical prowess.

Its undoing is the third act which brings all the couples together in a too basic wedding celebration, a mis-placed jitterbug dance and clumsy use of Puck’s closing “If we shadows have offended...” verse. It needn’t have speech in at all.

Kate Proctor


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