Tag Archives: Emma Lyth

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

★★★

Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium

Reviewed – 26th May 2022

★★★

 

“It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment”

 

The English summer outdoor theatrical season is amongst us and there can be few sites more delightful for enjoying an evening’s entertainment than the Roman Theatre of Verulamium (St Albans). The stage is beautifully lit (Mattis Larsen) in reds and blues as the evening draws in, and head mics are worn by all performers (sound by Michael Bird) that removes the necessary but sometimes irritating shoutiness of outdoor projection. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, for obvious reasons, a summer favourite and there is a huge amount of fun to be had in this production directed by Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan – including an opportunity for a legitimate stage invasion – but this is not one for a Shakespeare purist. With a large percentage of the original dialogue paraphrased into modern(-ish) language, and much of the plot condensed and developed, it is surprising that there is no ‘adapted by’ credit which is surely merited.

The action is initially set within the confines of a Blackburn working man’s club of the 1970s, with references to closing mills and striking miners, and with the locals sporting dodgy facial hair and Lancashire accents to reinforce the period feel. The style of the production is set as Lysander serenades Hermia with some verses of the Bay City Rollers’ hit Bye, Bye Baby and the audience is encouraged to join in. The dialogue, mixing the Shakespearean with the vernacular, goes along the lines of, “Stand forth Demetrius, cum ‘ere lad”.

A gender-ambiguous Puck (Guido Garcia Lueches) is barely dressed in a low-cut singlet, the shortest of shorts and the highest of platform boots (Costumes Emma Lyth) – half Eurovision, half Eurotrash. Leaving the club singing Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man after Midnight), Puck draws the locals into an imaginary Disco Land where the fairy magic is to take place. Verses of pop song are interspersed with spoken Shakespearean text whilst the would-be young lovers show us their moves (Choreography Sundeep Saini).

Lyle Fulton plays a rather pathetic but ultimately endearing Lysander who with a guitar in hand and a song for every occasion wins us over by his appealing nature. Emilia Harrild is a feisty Hermia – little but fierce – who endures the worst insult when described as a “Yorkshire teabag”. Charlie Clee plays Demetrius inexplicably as a sullen and rather unattractive suitor; an approach which is explained by a striking late plot twist. Eloise Westwood as the naive Helena provides the performance of the evening. Even before her moving last solo song, her star quality shines out amidst the pantomime going on around her.

In the traditional manner, the roles of Theseus (Ben Whitehead) and Hippolyta (Emma Wright) are doubled with those of Oberon and Titania. Emma Wright shows her stage versatility with an impressive transformation from down-trodden housewife to spectacular dancing queen. I can’t relax into Oberon’s “luurrv” style of delivery but many around me enjoy his fairy meddling, “Get ready to party, and don’t Puck it up”.

In the most radical change of the production, the hempen homespun have ambitions to become a pop band rather than to stage a play, so Pyramus and Thisbe does not get an airing. They are transformed into disco fairies and Bottom (Daniel Hall) becomes a Saturday Night Fever dance icon (white suit, gold medallion, black quiff) rather than the traditional ass.

In the final scene, back in the club, the band The Mechanicals perform a non-stop 70s megamix medley (Musical Director Tom Cagnoni) and the full cast dance out the night. It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment in the open air.

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Elliott Franks

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium until 11th June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Vinegar Tom | ★★★ | October 2021
Hedda Gabler | ★★★ | November 2021

 

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Company of Elders
★★★★

Lilian Baylis Studio

Company of Elders

Company of Elders

Lilian Baylis Studio

Reviewed – 14th June 2019

★★★★

 

“The strength and beauty of ageing are there, shining through the aching backs and wrinkles, luminous with a shared commitment to truth and dance”

 

This is not a usual dance show, there are no pyrotechnical leaps or astounding lifts, no point work or athleticism. What there is instead is the astonishing beauty of a group of humans in honest, truthful movement and communication, and it is rather wonderful.

Company of Elders is Sadler’s Wells’ resident over sixties company, founded over twenty years ago. All the dancers are at least sixty, and one lady on stage tonight was ninety years old. They are not professional dancers, and they have varying degrees of dance experience. Some only started dancing in their late sixties. What they all have is an openness and honesty of performance, and a willingness to share stories from their own lives. When someone is totally involved in their movement, really living the dance, the result is magnetic, and this evening felt like a lovely celebration of the beauty and spirit of older bodies and souls.

The first piece was Dare I Speak, choreographed by Alesandra Seutin, with costume by Emma Lyth and lighting design by Anthony Hateley. It is based on the short reign of Patrice Lumumba’s short period as prime minister of the Independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the way in which people can be elevated and destroyed by others in a second. The piece flows from Lumumba’s inspiring speech to his downfall as dancers transform from admirers into a frightening crowd. It works well for the company, allowing both group and individual movement to tell the story simply and strongly.

The second work was Natural 2019, a piece that demands courage from each dancer, as they share spoken stories of their lives and weave a sense of themselves with dance and sincerity. It is profoundly moving and great fun; not an easy mix to pull off. But they do it so well. A man speaks of his seven year old self, dancing in the living room with the curtains shut. A woman talks of her memories of Pakistan, and her lost language and fragmented heritage. Another woman tells of her titanium spine and other health issues. There is nostalgia and a sense of things lost, but this is no pity party.

The strength and beauty of ageing are there, shining through the aching backs and wrinkles, luminous with a shared commitment to truth and dance. There is sexuality and cheekiness; a huge sense of play and joy. This is a real company, not simply a group of individuals, and their care of each other shines through. Clara Andermatt’s choreography leaves room for the piece to breathe, and for improvisation. Carlos Ramos’ lighting, adapted by Anthony Hateley, provides a simple, effective backdrop to the stories. It is a powerful piece of work.

Company of Elders performed as part of the Elixir Extracts Festival, a three day programme dedicated to older artists aimed at celebrating lifelong creativity. The festival continues with other senior citizen dance groups from around the UK showcasing their work following an open call-out.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

 


Company of Elders

Lilian Baylis Studio as part of Elixir Extracts Festival

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Emperor and the Concubine | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dystopian Dream | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Layla and Majnun | ★★★½ | November 2018
Tom | ★★★★ | November 2018
Swan Lake | ★★★★★ | December 2018
Bon Voyage, Bob | ★★½ | February 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | March 2019
Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Rite Of Spring | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Constellations | ★★ | June 2019

 

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