31//NorthernBallet_A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Northern-Ballet-dancer-Kevin-Poeung-2,-photo-Jason-Tozer

A Friday evening and I had dashed across Leeds city centre to the WYPlayhouse, wearing cashmere weather pouring with rain, I had arrived fashionably on time (19:25) to experience David Nixon’s A Midsummer Night’s DreamAfter leaping puddles I was dazed.  Collecting myself, it was ideal to see a Northern Ballet dance adaptation of a W. Shakespeare play with music mostly from Mendelssohn.

Finding out seats, the cast acting a touring ballet company already present as if it were a rehearsal, we were set into the late 1940’s with a warming, playful tone.  The Story feels like it has already begun, a Midsummer’s Day in the Ballet Studio, the class rehearse Romeo and Juliet, the whole cast spread with each character well introduced cleverly across the stage.  I enjoyed noting dancers from previous NB performances (The Great Gatsby Grand Theatre and Ultimate Form Hepworth Gallery), particularly Kevin Poeung who played my favourite performance of the evening as Ballet Master, Robin Puck. Loving relationships unfold, revealed and hidden, and on entry of Artistic Director Theseus, love being riddled with control and desire, sometimes misdirection, the conflict explained itself and overlapped in a beautiful manner.  All strands of the story are thickened with dancing duets and comic moments. The story weaved comfortably and magically by character Robin Puck.

Act I ties magnificently to the dream of Act II with a well-executed sequence alighting and aboard the Flying Scotsman.  The technicalities on the train weren’t sloppy and the story upheld.  Though light in humour, the framework for the character development into Act II was filled with anticipation.   Act II pours into the dream of Artistic Director Theseus, becoming Oberon King of the Fairies.  Seeded with spells and magic, Oberon in love with lead ballerina Hippolyta, Act II flourished without break, crossing other intricate partnerships in good humour. Oberon not by cunning alone gets his girl and in Act III, the company awake serendipitously, all unrest now wondered in happiness.  This was quick and suddenly under all the emotional intent of the dance, the music flashes back into focus.  Closing, the performance of Romeo and Juliet now ends superbly, and the three couples happily celebrate engagements backstage.

I really enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The workings of the set were fantastic.  Act II was somewhat outrageous but it definitely sparked a contrast between the imagination and the tones of the 1940’s.  I was looking for an expression of darker intent. The donkey misbehaviour and other comic mechanisms were not entirely my taste, you can see how difficult this may be for the artistic merit of the dance to not slip into theatre. I enjoyed these moments regardless and overall I don’t think this happened.  Do go and see. The Story was portrayed successfully and in the haze of rain it certainly made me smile.

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