Directors: David Nixon and Patricia Doyle
Choreographer and costume design: David Nixon
Music: Mendelssohn and Brahms
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Northern Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes chugging into Milton Keynes this week as we find ourselves with a dance company on the London to Edinburgh leg of their tour and learn about all the shenanigans, romantic liaisons and diva posturing that go on! This is the Bard’s tale with a difference! And when the train, appropriately the Flying Scotsman, glides into a tunnel the magic begins. So too for the audience an enthralling journey from 40s glamour and class to a world of dreams and a wonderful evening which begins on entering the auditorium with the dancers on stage warming up.
Act 1 sees the aforementioned dance company getting ready in the studio to rehearse Romeo and Juliet with entanglements aplenty rumbling beneath the surface – Demetrius and Hermia, Hermia and Lysander, Theseus and his fiancee Hippolyta. Then there is carpenter Nick who is head over heels in love with Hippolyta!!! All this is made fairly clear through the clever choreography, the skillful dancing and of course facial expression. Add to the above problems the fact that Theseus, as Artistic Director, needs to ask his beloved to give up her favourite Juliet rôle and it really is a tangled web. Indeed with see a superb pas de deux danced by Theseus and Hippolyta, danced respectively by the very talented Hironao Takahashi and Antoinette Brooks-Daw, its difficulty and their high emotions are communicated. Tantrums continue as the dancers board the train, a vehicle the likes of which has surely rarely been seen. However, no spoilers here regarding Duncan Hayler’s exquisite set! As the train pulls away the entertaining dance master, one Robin Puck, is seen tap dancing in time to the train’s motion. Kevin Peoung as said Puck carries it off effortlessly and with real panache.
Act 2 is Midsummer Night in Fairyland where Theseus’ dream begins with all of us in on it and where the problems of real life are echoed. At this point, Takahashi, now as Oberon, really shows his prowess as a soloist. Wow! Likewise the awesome poise and power of Poeung is displayed as he dances and plots with Oberon. Lots of confusion ensues as Puck turns Nick into a donkey and the tale follows the famous Shakespeare intrigues. And it really is an out-of -this-world section with wonderfully vivid fairy costumes and yet another intriguing set. Simple but so effective. Special mention must go to Tobias Batley as Demetrius and Pippa Moore in the rôle of Helena for their hilarious comic routine. Not only are the choreography and dancing absolutely spot on but the way in which these two dancers conjure with their bodies and especially Moore for her use of facial expressions is spellbinding. A natural comedienne. In the dream section too we have a range of dancing from the young lovers Lysander (Javier Torres) and Hermia (Martha Leebolt). They show not only skill and grace in a brief pas de deux but switch brilliantly to the comedy movements. For added comic effect we also have the more mature but still light on his feet Darren Goldsmith as Nick the carpenter come donkey. Tres drôle.
This act provides the perfect contrast to the previous one in every sense and the beautiful and lyrical music played the Northern ballet Sinfonia and conducted by Nathan Fifield just completes it.
Act 3 brings reconciliation and joy to all as the company reaches its destination. They perform Romeo and Juliet later that evening, with Hermia now as Juliet, and receive a standing ovation.The company congratulate the duo and happily celebrate the engagement of all three of the couples with a fantastic party backstage. All is indeed well that ends well! At this juncture the ensemble can be seen dancing all sorts of 40s classics and very obviously enjoying them in costumes that are truly stylish and elegant. As the evening comes to a close, Puck is seen collecting the remnants of the dream and the audience is left as if in a dream itself. A magical moment not to be missed.
Photo: Emma Kauldhar | Runs until: Sat 24 May 14