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Northern Ballet - A Midsummer Night's Dream - Autumn 2013


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NORTHERN BALLET – A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – AUTUMN 2013

 

Northern Ballet opened their Autumn season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last Friday evening.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse is a fantastic, welcoming venue with its huge foyer area with bar and café.  So the mood is already upbeat before I even go into the (by NB’s usual standards) intimate auditorium that has fantastic sight lines wherever you sit.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was created for the West Yorkshire Playhouse 10 years ago and is the only one of NB’s WYP productions that has toured extensively because of the different nature of the performance space. 

 

David Nixon and Patricia Doyle have translated Ancient Athens to a ballet company touring in the late 1940s.  In Act 1, the action opens with the end of the ballet class and we gradually meet the characters as they start rehearsing Romeo and Juliet.  The relationships are clearly established for example Theseus is the Artistic Director, Robin Puck the Ballet Master and Hippolyta the Prima Ballerina whom Theseus loves and is trying to persuade to retire and hang up her pointe shoes.  The rehearsal ends and the action moves to Kings Cross where the company is catching the sleeper train to Edinburgh.

 

Act 2 is the dream sequence where the order of the world is inverted.  Theseus/Oberon finds a pair of ballet shoes and tries to persuade Hippolyta/Titania to have them only for her to reject them.  Eventually all is resolved….

 

In Act 3 the train has arrived at Edinburgh Waverley and everyone has resolved their situation in time for the party!

 

Duncan Hayler’s set is amazing and really very clever.  David Nixon designed the costumes; in Acts 1 and 3 the costumes are based around Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s and use a monochrome palette (the girls’ are absolutely divine).  Act 2 is a riot of colour to say the least!

 

The choreography is witty and funny and there are some superb duets.  The scene in Act 2 where Puck has accidentally made Demetrius and Lysander both love Helena is truly hilarious.  The reconciliation duet for Theseus and Hippolyta is ravishingly romantic.

 

Possibly the scene setting in Act 1 goes on a little too long but that is only a very minor quibble.  Once the dancing starts the story zooms along at a great pace.

 

There are lots of good roles; apart from Theseus, Hippolyta, Demetrius, Lysander, Puck and Bottom there are the rest of the Rude Mechanicals.  In this production the Rude Mechanicals are actually the technical crew for the company.  As it is some years since NB revived this particular piece of magic there were many debuts over the weekend and it was nice to see some of the younger dancers getting substantial roles.

 

Opening night honours went to Hiro Takahashi as Theseus with Antoinette Brookes Daw making her debut as Hippolyta.  Martha Leebolt made her debut as Hermia with Pippa Moore, Toby Batley and Kenny Tindall reprising their roles.  Kevin Peoung made a wonderful debut as Puck.  The whole company looked on sparkling form and it was a really special performance.

 

On Saturday afternoon, Toby Batley made a very strong debut as Theseus with Martha Leebolt as his Hippolyta.  In the evening we saw Ashley Dixon and Pippa Moore in the same roles.

 

There is so much to see in this ballet that it definitely bears repeated viewings.  I am seeing another 3 performances this week and really can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi Julie,

 

Northern Ballet has got a mini-site for MSND.  Here is the link to the synopsis:   http://northernballet.com/index.php?q=a-midsummer-nights-dream/story

 

It's probably worth doing a bit of background before you go.  Don't forget to go into the auditorium 10-15 minutes before the start time because it starts before it starts, if you see what I mean!

 

Please report back what you and your friends thought of the performance!

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Here's a featurette on A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens in Newcastle tonight:

 

http://www.thejournal.co.uk/culture/theatre/northern-ballet-brings-dream-show-6029594

 

"This, of course, was fashion icon Christian Dior’s cutting-edge line launched post-war: a happy extravagance following years or rationing and limiting.

They also discovered that this was a time when clothing manufacturers, desperate to get their work out there again, were eager to dress ballet companies to impress."

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And now, here's a review from Newcastle:

 

http://www.thejournal.co.uk/culture/theatre/review-midsummer-nights-dream-newcastle-6064378

 

Thinking back over the performances I saw in Leeds there were so many little moments of spine tingling joy for me:

 

Darren Goldsmith is utterly magnificent as Nick Bottom, especially in Acts 1 and 3 where he perfectly judges the pathos of the stagehand who has a crush on Hippolyta.  In one tiny moment I noticed him wringing his hands in concern as he watches Hippolyta being lifted during a rehearsal.

 

Kevin Peoung has a prodigious talent and is breath-taking as Puck.  He has got a powerful stage presence for such a young dancer.

 

Matt Broadbent has perfectly judged the role of Wardrobe Master - dramatic but not overly camp.

 

It's been nice, too, seeing the younger dancers getting a go at some of the bigger roles such as Isaac Lee Baker as Lysander and Nicola Gervasi is Demetrius and Puck.

 

Some of the more senior dancers have been performing a couple of the roles and it has been good to see them get the chance to show the breadth of their acting skills - Toby Batley as Demetrius and Oberon, Antoinette Brooks Daw as Hippolyta and Helena.

 

And finally, fans of Northern Ballet are so lucky to be able to see 3 of the best dance actresses of the current generation in Martha Leebolt, Pippa Moore and Hannah Bateman.  There is so much talent throughout the ranks too.  Northern Ballet really are on sparkling form at the moment.

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Doesn't look like it this year. Woking is a possibility for me but not this month.

 

I see they are doing The Mayflower theatre in Southampton (the next nearest) and Ive often wanted to have a look at this theatre so could combine a visit with this programme. Gives me more time to get organised at any rate!

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I went to see this last night in Newcastle it was an amazing final night performance and a great introduction to the style of Northern Ballet. The costuming was also excellently done. Interesting choreography, filled with humour and very easy to understand if you were a ballet novice.

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Here's another review that I've just come across from WYP:

 

http://yorkshiretimes.co.uk/article/A-Midsummer-Nights-Dream-Northern-Ballet

 

"For me Frenchman Kevin Poeung as Robin Puck most appropriately had that Je Ne Sais Quoi. He had the effortless strength, and ability, of youth, whilst Pippa Moore as Helena, proved herself a tiny powerhouse of comedy and seamless, energetic movement."

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Thank you very much for that, Janet. We're going to see MSND in Woking tomorrow, and I had geared myself up  for a very concentrated prep - this link makes it much easier!

 

Is there anyone / anything we should particularly look out for - apart from getting to our seats early, that is? I've not seen NB very often....

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Looking at the casting from Newcastle it looks as though the casts are being mixed up a little bit.  There is one cast I haven't seen at all but the other 3 have been super.

 

If he is on stage in any capacity look out for Kevin Peoung - an amazing talent in a very talented company.  Darren Goldsmith is only doing Puck in this run but I think he is absolutely sublime in this role - a masterclass in understated acting that is breathtaking.

 

Please let us know what you think of the performance.

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Is there anyone / anything we should particularly look out for - apart from getting to our seats early, that is?

 

In case you're not too familiar with the NVT, Simon, you certainly need to if you're near the middle of the row: there's no aisle.  I always sit towards the outside so I can make a dash for my train easily!

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I saw last Friday's performance at Newcastle. The cast was rather different from the ones described so far. What interested me was that it was the dancers newer to the company who were most impressive, both in dancing and acting. Sean Bates was excellent as Puck, interpreting the two different aspects of the role con

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Sheila, try posting here again.  If you click in the "Posting" field you may find that it comes up at bottom left with something along the lines of "View Auto-Saved Content".  If you click on that, it may allow you to restore what you were originally trying to post.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Janet, I haven't yet thanked you for the tip about getting into the auditorium early . . .We were seated by 7.05 and had a glorious time watching the "class" before the ballet proper kicked in  (as it were). Much better than dawdling over a pizza outside! THANKS!

 

We enjoyed the production very much  -  sadly I cannot find the programme as I am writing this, so am wary of specifics about the dancers, but the sets were breathtaking - that TRAIN !! -, the characterisation spot-on, the whole approach made sense of an essentially *non*sensical narrative, and the dancing was splendid. The only negative, for me, was right at the end when Shakespeare's lovely verse was spoken (and I tend not to like speech in ballet anyway) by a reedy italian-accented voice that just didn't "do it" for me. I know that dancers are not selected for their powers of recitative, and rather than take risks it would maybe be better to have a Voice From On High. This would alter the concept, of course ....

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  • 2 months later...

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