Seen: A Midsummer Night's Dream

ROYAL NEW ZEALAND BALLET

AUCKLAND PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

September 2nd, ASB Theatre

 

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s brand new production of Shakespeare’s beloved A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a visual and theatrical masterpiece. Designer Tracy Grant Lord has created an absolutely magical set, resplendent with coloured lights that react with movements of the characters onstage. A neon moon, stylised and heavy tropical blooms, multiple levels and a bridge of twisted vines for Oberon to oversee his kingdom, create the otherworldly experience audience are looking for when they go to the ballet.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s costumes are equally beautiful, and create a sense of cohesion with the environment around them. Moth, Cobweb, Mustard Seed, Peaseblossom and the Blue Fairies are frothy and mischevious in deconstructed tutus that tremble with every movement. Oberon, Titania and puck are resplendent and regal in shimmering midnight blue, white and turquoise. Makeup was provided by M.A.C this season, and although the colours and designs photograph beautifully, I felt they were not attentive enough to opening up the dancers’ features onstage.

 

MacLean Hopper, with the company since 2012, is elegant and commanding as King of the Fairies, Oberon. Hopper’s extension through the limbs, and alignment of the head and neck create an intelligent interpretation of the character – charming, stroppy, romantic – and supremely confident. I particularly enjoyed his attention to detail during the performance. His emotive and strong use of the hands to communicate emotional nuances, deliberate eyelines and a showy flick of the wrist when brandishing the magical flower contribute to the care and sophistication of Hopper’s performance.

 

Queen of the Fairires, Tonia Looker, was another audience favourite. Her elegance and fluidity are captivating, and it’s a lovely thing to see such a talented classical dancer in her prime. Looker’s characterisation is convincing, sustainted and appealing. Shaun James Kelly, as Puck, did a tremendous job of filling the demands of a complicated and well-known role. Technically he is clean and crisp, his pirouettes and elevation are snappy and neat. I loved his appearance from a fairy bed in an over-sized tropical bloom, high above the stage, his magical yet masculine costuming, and his sophisticated comic detail.

 

Harry Skinner, as Bottom, and Abigail Boyle, as Helena, demonstrate glorious comic timing and brilliant awareness of physical humour. The characterisations by these two artists were essential in creating the madcap and adventurous spirit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Their work in Act Two, in particular, had the majority of the audience laughing out loud – not always what we expect when we think of an evening at the ballet.

 

Award-winning, UK based choreographer Liam Scarlett is to be congratulated on a stunning and lively production. He has successfully captivated the bawdy humour, youthful energy and midsummer madness of Shakespeare’s fast-paced tale. Contemporary and inventive pas de deux work ensured all of the choreography was fresh and enthralling. His Act Two chasing sequence is absolutely hilarious, and his attention to choreographic detail – Moth scratching her butt as she tries to ‘act nonchalant’ for example – is just great. Scarlett has created a magical moonlight world with this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his artistic vision is impressive.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a glorious midnight romp. Don’t miss the The Royal New Zealand Ballet in this wonderful new production.

 

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