Probably the main reason I enjoyed this ballet so much is because I’ve never seen a ballet that made me laugh so much before. The Northern Ballet have done an amazing job of translating all humour and mischief of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream into dance, while also capitalising on its delicate ethereality.
It’s an imaginative adaptation: a touring ballet company travelling by sleeper train for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in Edinburgh. The dream is dreamt by Theseus, the artistic director of the ballet, and plays out the tensions and love triangles of the lead dancers in his company. The following day in Edinburgh, the company put on a successful performance and, true to the original play, there are multiple marriage proposals
The impressive set design is pretty instrumental to creating the contrast between the drab 1940s world of reality and the surreal, brightly coloured dreamworld. Perhaps the only downside is that the middle act, the dreamworld, is so beautiful and energetic the acts either side seem to drag slightly by comparison. Despite the challenge of setting not only these two worlds, but also a ballet within a ballet, it manages to avoid being confusing – the dancers dance en pointe when they are performing Romeo and Juliet, without when they are ‘themselves’, and a mixture of both in the dreamworld.
Generally a favourite character anyway, Puck (Kevin Poeung) was fortunately one of the highlights of the play. His dancing was athletically mind-blowing and full of dramatic presence. He had all the energy and waywardness to be expected of the character, with an additional Johnny Depp-esque weirdness of manner and facial expression that made him fascinating to watch.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend going to see this ballet, whether you’re a particular fan of the play or not. It’s not only spectacular and funny, but detailed and sensitive to nuance – a bold and arrestingly imaginative interpretation.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until Sat 14 September