One of Shakespeare’s most beloved and well known plays is brought to life by the creative hands, or should I say ballet shoes, of the Northern Ballet. A modern interpretation of an iconic play, this touring production has added sexuality and amazing visuals.
The story tells the tale of ballet dancers rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet, yet end up in fairyworld. Though arguably a confusing concept, a ballet within a ballet, the original story remains clear, and the modernisation works well; the creative team have changed the setting from Shakespeare’s Athena to 1930’s England. The young couple’s arguments are not caused by the issue of who they should marry, but who is to be their dance partner in the upcoming production. The mechanicals are no longer a band of helpless thespians, but a group of bumbling stage crew; Matthew Broadbent stealing scenes with the flick of his blonde wig, a swish of his skirts and prima donna tendencies.
This production is for everyone, not just Shakespeare fans
The set is remarkable; the dance studio is clean cut with strong lines, and fairyland comes alive with spectacular colour. It is not a place of flowers and bohemian spirit, but rather a neon sci-fi fantasy with a huge all-seeing eye being patrolled by Oberon or Puck, a distorted hanging train that resembles a rocket, and beds suspended high above the stage where the sleeping couples enter their strange and bizarre midsummer’s dream, happening on their train journey north to Edinburgh. The use of the train journey also added delightful scenes with turning rooms and door, allowing the audience to see into the mayhem that ensues within the small cabins.
This modern adaption also has added sexuality, with pillow fights, groping, innuendo, blatant sexual positions, silk boxer shorts, corsets, and a with a side order of bestiality you might think that last week’s production of the Rocky Horror Show at the Theatre Royal rubbed off on this production!
The dancers were consistently strong, accompanied by the beautiful score. Michela Paolacci was particularly brilliant in her role of Helena, the desperate romantic. She brought comic relief to scenes in her attempts to get Demetrius’s (Giuliano Contadini) attention and affections through her movements, facial expressions and her many rejected kisses.
Tobias Batley also should be noted for his performance as both Theseus and Oberon, whose characters were successfully blended together to create not two separate characters, but one. The dream world morphs to mirror his relationship with Hippolyta in the ‘real world’ and Titania, the Queen of the Fairies.
A ballet that is fun, to be enjoyed by all
The different dance styles also add another element to the production. The Swing number in the final scene helped reaffirm the 1930’s setting, bringing the era to life outside of the dance studio we see in the first act. Puck’s tap number as the Ballet master was also a well thought out end to the first act. Speeches were also a surprise addition, with Punk and Oberon communicating at points through language and not dance. These short exchanges allowed some of the storyline to be better explained at the beginning, though performer’s voices were not projected. In Puck’s final and iconic speech Kevin Poeung’s strong French accent meant many words were lost.
This production is for everyone, not just Shakespeare fans. A ballet that is fun, to be enjoyed by all, and I promise students will defiantly appreciate the added crudeness. The story is dramatically condensed, making the production snappy and fast moving, and the modernization works well. With sassy fairies shaking their wings, one very confused ass and a whole load of mischief, this is a production that you are sure to enjoy.
By Page Phillips Harrington
For tickets and more information, visit the website here
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