Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
On 24 September I visited the New Victoria Theatre in Woking to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ performed by the Northern Ballet Company. I had not visited the theatre since July and was very impressed with the refurbishments; in particular the brand new Piano bar situated on the mezzanine level. This circular area surrounding the central staircase, has been paved in marble together with new carpeting and up-beat decoration. The bar area has been redesigned to give new elegant spaces with a large selection of excellent modern seating where customers can sit and enjoy the live piano music while sipping their wine, cocktails or freshly brewed coffee. The bar opens 90 minutes prior to each performance and remains open after the show allowing customers to enjoy their theatre visit in style.
David Nixon first created his adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Northern Ballet in 2003, when it won an Olivier nomination. His 2013 production will visit 9 venues around the country where audiences will be impressed by the imaginative direction, costume design and choreography. Creative dance movements and comedy are woven together to create an entertainment that on several occasions has the audience gasping and laughing out loud. This is a production suitable for both the discerning ballet-lover and those who have never been to a ballet before.
While the audience were taking their seats in the auditorium the main stage was open and members of the cast could be seen relaxing, chatting, trying out steps and stretching exercises. This gave an air of expectancy to the evening and also a chance to see the excellent set by Duncan Hayler, which was all black and white with wonderful use of perspective and space. The curtain came down for a few moments and then opened to show the full cast, in changed costume, on stage.
The story is set in the 1940’s with the first act taking place in the Ballet studio, on Midsummer’s Day. Here is where we meet the characters and where love and relationships unfold. As this is an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s more complicated plots, the audience could be excused if they did get a little confused.
From rehearsal room, with large windows, we are transported to the bustle of busy Kings Cross Station as the cast board the Flying Scotsman to Edinburgh. The train sets off and, to the delight of the audience, there is a burst of steam while the rear of the train concertinas forwards, leaving the station. Next we see the carriages across the full stage and, with clever use of pivoting sections, see inside the cramped compartments and corridor to enjoy the various sleeping arrangements, quarrelling lovers and romantic entanglements.
The production effectively involves a ballet within a ballet and the second act comprises a dream sequence set in fairyland, where various members of the ballet troupe assume the roles of the familiar Shakespearean characters, including Oberon, Titania, Puck and Bottom. A surreal set provides the background for colourful dance sequences which often include moments of comedy.
The dancing is generally well executed and there are some wonderful solo and ensemble pieces. The Ballet Master and Puck, is a dancer to watch as he really held the stage with perfect timing and amazing movement. Also the dancers who played Helen and Demetrius. Unfortunately, although I had a programme which gave a full biography of all the dancers, it did not name their individual characters so I am unable to put names to the performers.
Much of the music will be fairly familiar even to those who do not follow ballet. Extracts from Mendelssohn’s Incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and other symphonic music along with some popular Brahms. Arrangement was by John Longstaff , directed by John Pryce Jones and competently played by the Northern Ballet Symphonia.
I would definitely recommend going to see this production as it is a great experience for all the family.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 28 September 2013. For more information or to book tickets click here.