Dance Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Northern Ballet

When: 21st May / Where: Milton Keynes Theatre

I’m going to start off by saying that I think Northern Ballet are fast becoming my favourite dance company. They manage to be entertaining, inventive and visually dynamic all at once. The range of work they take on tour is impressive and being a relatively small company, you get the sense that there is more room for the dancers to spread their wings a little. I unfortunately missed their recent performances at the Linbury, but was delighted to be able to see their balletic version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier this week.

For those unfamiliar with the original play, see a plot summary here or read Northern Ballet’s own summary here. NB had reimagined the play through the lens of a 1940s ballet company, giving us an unusual narrative: ballet dancers playing ballet dancers. The stage was set up to resemble a studio, with the company arranged as if warming up as the audience walked into the theatre. Once the curtain was officially up, we observed the company drifting about, preparing for rehearsals. Through interactions, we were able to identify out Hermia, our Lysander, our Helena and our Demetrius. The artistic director (our Theseus, Tobias Batley) strode in all in white, sharply reprimanding his dancers and pushing one ballerina aside (our Hippolyta, Martha Leebolt) in favour of another, their disagreement over his rejection of her as Juliet informing us of their romantic connection (and disagreement over her career). All of these small interactions mirrored the play perfectly, setting us up for the confusion that follows. I had trouble spotting Bottom and Puck in the scenes in the studio and at the station, although I had no trouble identifying them in the dream.

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