STAGE REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (01.11.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Nadine Shah as Titania and Company, image by Patch Dolan

Chaotic, calamitous and comedic, this A Midsummer Night’s Dream is wonderfully brilliant with lots of twists and surprises along the way. This is Shakespeare as you’ve not seen him before, in the round and very much brought to life with relevance, grit and a large dose of Northern attitude. The different strands of Shakespeare’s best loved comedy entwine, as do the modern cultural references with traditional text. It lifts the script off the page and into your lap, enticing you to become part of the show at times.

This version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been created by Not Too Tame and Matthew Dunster and is a co-production between A Shakespeare Northern Playhouse, Northern Stage and Not Too Tame. It tells the story of Hermia who is given an ultimatum to marry Demetrius, live forever alone or die. She escapes with her true love Lysander to the woods, followed by Helena and Demetrius. Mischievous fairy, Puck, wreaks havoc, things don’t go to plan to comical effect and Bottom undergoes a hilarious transformation. Interspersed with this, the entertaining yet inept Mechanicals are rehearsing for a play. Their rehearsals build up throughout the play to a final showpiece, providing light to the sometimes darkness of the woods.

All of the cast give truly theatrical performances atop and around a cleverly made octagonal stage, with actors from stage, screen and beyond wearing a variety of costumes. Candelabra hang from the ceiling either side of a circular portal to the sky above. Effects change the mood as required, alongside a varied, and at times surprising, soundtrack.

One of the standout performances of the night was by local singer-songwriter Nadine Shah. She shines as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, making the stage her own and enthralling the audience with monologues, speeches and her deep soulful voice. This is her acting debut and she makes the transition look effortless, as if she were born to be there.

The mix of accents is refreshing: Liverpudlian, Glaswegian, South Tyneside, as is the fact that one of the main characters, Lysander played by William Grint, is a Deaf actor. The integration of sign language into the performance is ground breaking, it really works with the characters and performances and surely calls for more of this way of working. Added jokes are worked in around this, but I’ll leave that for you to find out by watching the play. There are a number of access performances including relaxed, BSL interpreted, captioned and audio described, so the play is accessible to even more people.

I defy you to find a Shakespeare play like it, it will certainly make you see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a different way.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Northern Stage, Newcastle until Saturday 12th November.

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