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A Midsummer Night’s Dream – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Choreographer/Director: David Nixon, OBE

Musical Director: John Pryce Jones

Reviewer: S. E. Webster

[rating:5]

Northern Ballet - A Midsummer Nigh'ts DreamNorthern Ballet’s prelude to the new autumn season at West Yorkshire Playhouse has commenced in the exciting form of the latest revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In mapping the Shakespearean classic of frustrated love and inner rivalries onto the daily lives of a ballet company, as they rehearse and prepare for their own opening night of Romeo and Juliet (another Shakespearean drama of love against all odds) the story is given a modern twist.

Likewise, Northern Ballet’s music arranger, John Longstaff, has kept the musical accompaniment fresh with a score that not only features Mendelssohn’s original work for the ballet, as well as highlights from his 3rd and 4th symphonies, but also utilizes some of Brahm’s symphony work. This choice of musical arrangement harmonizes perfectly with David Nixon’s fluid, modern choreography, which often exploits comic elements that are key to Shakespeare’s play, challenging the stereotype that ballet is always cool, distanced and rather highbrow for most audiences today.

Strong comic energy is played out between the two sparring couples of Helena (Pippa Moore) and Demetrius (Tobias Batley), Hermia (Martha Leebolt) and Lysander (Kenneth Tindall), all of whom are extremely agile and highly skilled dancers in their own right, and yet whom inspire genuine laughter and applause from the audience as they not only dance but act their rôles admirably, as does Giuliano Contadini, who plays the part of the dress maker.

If any one dancer is capable of stealing the show on a production set teeming with world class dancers it is Kevin Poeung, who plays the part of Robin Puck, the ballet master. Graceful, elegant and effortlessly dancing throughout the production, he is well cast in his rôle as the mischievous dance master and fairy and certainly won the audience’s approval on opening night at the Playhouse.

The production set is extremely well thought out and ambitious, from the monochrome ballet studio in Act I, which transforms into the northbound train, to the dream sequence in Act II, where characters are suspended from the air in beds rigged up with wires, and Hironao Takahashi’s Oberon oversees the chaos he has helped to cause from the huge eye that forms the backdrop to the set.

Likewise, lighting responds effectively to the feelings and emotions portrayed by the dancers on stage, such as when the set turns a deep crimson as an angry and frustrated Oberon dances furiously across the stage.

Meanwhile, the costume in this production is breath-taking, in particular the fairy costumes and Darren Goldsmith’s costume as Bottom do not fail to impress.

Thankfully, Northern Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is touring nationally through into the beginning of summer 2014, offering audiences plenty of opportunity to experience and enjoy what this exciting ballet company has to offer on the theatre stage and in the world of dance.

Touring nationally until 31st May 2014

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