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 Post subject: NBT - Midsummer Night's Dream
PostPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2004 12:39 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1889
Location: London
Northern Ballet Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Sadler’s Wells Theatre
17 – 27 March at 7.30pm, Sat 20, Wed 24 and Sat 27 at 2.30pm
Tickets: 0870 737 7737

‘Fit to burst with larky good jokes and visual daring’ Independent on Sunday

Northern Ballet Theatre’s new and refreshing dance interpretation of William Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London on Wednesday 17 March 2004, following a critically acclaimed sell-out world première in Leeds last autumn.

Directed and choreographed by Northern Ballet Theatre Artistic Director David Nixon, with co-direction by Patricia Doyle, set and lighting design by Duncan Hayler and a score using the romantic music of Mendelssohn and Brahms, arranged by John Longstaff.

Following his recent success with Madame Butterfly and Wuthering Heights, David Nixon has created a new three-act ballet inspired by Shakespeare’s most enchanting play. Transporting the action into the real ballet world, the romantic entanglements of a 1940s touring dance company are played out on
one midsummer night, on the sleeper train from London to Edinburgh.

‘Fast and funny and unselfconsciously eloquent’ Daily Telegraph

As the reality of the ballet rehearsal room fades and the action moves to King’s Cross Station, the dancers board a train to Edinburgh and begin a journey that takes them into a nocturnal realm of strangely familiar faces in extraordinary, often baffling, new relationships.

The second act dream takes place in the mind, an exciting challenge for designer Duncan Hayler who places the action in a spectacular, upside-down dreamscape behind a magnificent blue eye; contrasting brilliantly with his largely monochrome first and third act sets. David Nixon’s attractive costume designs reflect the post-war glamour epitomised by Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s, when the world rediscovered fashion.

‘… works like, well, a dream ... It's great to hear a full house shaking with laughter at their inspired dance antics’ The Times

Performances: 17 – 27 March at 7.30pm, Sat 20, Wed 24 and Sat 27 at 2.30pm
No performance Sun 21 and Mon 22 March
Ticket Office: 0870 737 7737
Tickets: £6 - £40
Images: or 020 7968 1560

 Post subject: Re: NBT - Midsummer Night's Dream
PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:29 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3394
Location: Canada
Northern Ballet Theatre
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
February 24, 2004
"A Midsummer Night's Dream"

As a night train speeds northwards and Mendelssohn's music darts along, Northern Ballet Theatre's new production of the classic "A Midsummer Night's Dream" unfolds. David Nixon's fairy tale takes a different track, set not in Ashton or Balanchine's lush fairy world, but in the ballet world, following the travails of a company traveling via night train to Edinburgh.

Not surprisingly, all is not well in this fictional ballet company, with the artistic director (Theseus), a suave Jonathan Ollivier, calling an end to the ballet career of his prima ballerina and fiancée (Hippolyta), played by Keiko Amemori. Four other principal dancers, Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius, are caught in relationship tangles of their own, while Nick Bottom the carpenter, the stage managers and wardrobe master carry on drama off the stage. All are observed by Robin Puck, the jaunty Ballet Master.

Nixon sets the ballet in three acts, the dream world of the second act caught between the "real world" of the opening and closing acts. Duncan Hayler's sets and Nixon's costumes hint at 1940s or 1950s Scotland, the jumble of vivid colors in the dream world standing out against the black and white of the "real" world, creating a "Wizard of Oz" effect where the dramatic contrast of colored dream against black & white reality emphasizes the fantasy of the dream.

In setting up the story, the first act falls into the trap of mixing too much drama and not enough dance. While Northern Ballet Theatre's trademark is a unique combination of the two arts, it is a shame to waste Mendelssohn's wonderfully danceable music. That said, the opening sequences of the ballet, with the company rehearsing "Romeo and Juliet" were full of fabulous dramatic comedy, with spot-on comedic timing and lots of athletic leaps and catches. Amemori and Ollivier were brilliant in the lead roles, believably human in the waking world and delightfully impish and fairylike in the dream. Christian Broomhall's cherubic Robin Puck was much more effective as the Ballet Master, with his alter ego clad in an unflattering bright blond wig & non-descript unitard, and deprived of much real dancing. A glimpse of Broomhall's crisp, quick dancing was given in the final act, but one wished he would be allowed to stop twirling his ever present walking stick and really let loose.

Hayler's combination of clever lighting effects and set design made it feel as if the train bearing the company to Edinburgh was speeding through the theater. Yet, the actual train set was cluttered and set too far back on the stage, making it hard to discern who and what was happening in the various berths. Perhaps it is not the exact detail that matters, but one needs to see the dancers to keep interest in the action.

When the quarreling company finally drifts off to sleep, the production really hits its' stride. With a upside-down silver train, giant eye and beds hanging from the ceiling, Hayler creates a truly unique fantasy world, equal parts James Bond and fantastical fairyland. Nixon's costumes are less enthralling, with Oberon, in horned helmet, looking more like the lead from Discord & War in George Balanchine's "Coppelia" than a fairy king and the elven cavaliers, with long blond hair and green tunics, reminiscent of their "Lord of the Rings" brethren. But, the great white winged dress for Titania, the brightly colored fairy costumes and the simple underclothes of the human lovers were both appropriate and attractive.

Here the dancing really comes alive, with stunningly timed acrobatic, yet smooth dancing from Christopher Hinton-Lewis, Adam Temple, Pippa Moore, and Nicola Cross. As the beds rise and descend, lowering their occupants into the increasingly and amusingly confused dream world, the dancing increases in intensity, the women being lifted up, slid between legs, balanced, thrown and contorted, all without nary a slip or bobble. It's just the right blend of humor, sexiness and athleticism. Even Darren Goldsmith's Bottom gets a chance to hoof it himself, a delightful galloping, prancing little solo.
Nixon's choreographic talent also is revealed in the flickeringly quick variations for the fairy & elf retinue. The fairies spin delicately on en pointe, ably partnered by the athletic elves.

The only sour note is the overdone romance between the potion-drugged Titania and Bottom. A charming duet ends with overly loud donkey braying, which goes from amusing to annoying when the couple retire to her bower in the giant eye. Shakespeare was bawdy, but he did with wonderful wit and twists of the tongue.

Hippolyta and Theseus reunite in beautifully realized pas de deux, which works with the music and the mood in all the ways their first act pas de deux did not.

With the lovers' quarrels finally sorted out, the train arrives at Waverly Station and a run of "Romeo and Juliet". After a triumphant opening night, the company reunite for a after-party and celebration of three engagements. Lovers are happy, Theseus has realized the error of ending Hippolyta's career, and joyous dancing results. The swing influenced dancing brings out the best in the company. It's jazzy, energetic, supple, flowing and groovin' and not at all forced. And, in a twist, perhaps fitting for a British company run by a North American, the night ends with Shakespeare's closing verse as read by Ohio-born Broomhall's American accented Puck!

Music by Mendelssohn and Brahms was arranged by John Longstaff and conducted by John Pryce-Jones. Richard Kenwood Herriott was the onstage pianist, with additional stage direction by Patricia Doyle.

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