Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Bottom and Hippolyta/Titania get friendly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Bottom and Hippolyta/Titania get friendly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

First published in Theatre by

THIS revival of David Nixon’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream marks the tenth anniversary of Northern Ballet’s debut performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with his blissful re-envisioning of Shakespeare’s comedy.

The theatre and the ballet company are now next-door neighbours at Quarry Hill, further cementing their relationship, and it is a delight to see the Dream weave its magic once more.

Out goes Athenean high society; in comes a three-act ballet in the 1940s, where choreographer and artistic director Nixon transports Shakespeare’s romantic entanglements into the real ballet world as a touring dance company travels on the Midsummer Night’s sleeper train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley, calling at Fairyland.

Puck has become the ballet master Robin Puck (the fabulously arch Kevin Poeung); Theseus (Tobias Batley), the artistic director, and Hippolyta (Martha Leebolt), the prima ballerina.

The quarrelling lovers, Lysander (Isaac Lee-Baker), Demetrius (Giuliano Contradini), Helena (Antoinett Brooks-Daw) and Hermia (Hannah Bateman), are now principal dancers.

Bottom (Sebastian Loe) is a big-bottomed stage carpenter and his fellow Rude Mechanicals take on such jobs as Stage Manager, Train Conductor and Rehearsal Pianist.

The first act takes a while to set the scene in the rehearsal studio until Duncan Hayler’s set design goes full steam ahead, creating the train and then its rotating, cramped carriages, where Nixon echoes Buster Keaton’s silent comedy.

The second act goes into over-drive in Fairyland, the train now white and suspended, along with two beds, as Puck pulls the strings in the pillow-fight clashes of the lovers, conducted at dazzling pace in Nixon’s sexy, humorous and audacious choreography.

How do you follow such exhilaration?

By holding a wedding party, a celebration of love, for the whole company to enjoy as they cut a rug with Jazz Age steps. What a night!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds until Saturday. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or wyp.org.uk

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