The Dreaming

Theatre, Shakespeare
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 (© Darren Bell)
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© Darren Bell

'The Dreaming'

 (© Darren Bell)
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© Darren Bell

'The Dreaming'

 (© Darren Bell)
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© Darren Bell

'The Dreaming'

 (© Darren Bell)
4/5
© Darren Bell

'The Dreaming'

 (© Darren Bell)
5/5
© Darren Bell

'The Dreaming'

Howard Goodall and Charles Hart's charming musical adaptation of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.


You’ll probably be able to hum something by composer Howard Goodall even if you don’t know who he is. Watched ‘Red Dwarf’? What about ‘Blackadder’ or ‘The Vicar of Dibley’? Goodall wrote the theme music to all of those TV shows, and a lot more. He can certainly pen a catchy tune, but his 2001 Shakespeare-sourced musical ‘The Dreaming’, which features a script and lyrics by Charles Hart, is evidence of just how great his musical theatre work can be too.
 
‘The Dreaming’ is ambitious. Although Shakespeare’s pastoral fairy comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has been adapted plenty of times before, it’s always a gamble to tamper with a play that so many people know and love. And Goodall’s reworking, set in rural Somerset in 1913, dispenses with the original text entirely. It also has a massive cast (20 or so actors, several of whom double up), which means it must be quite an undertaking to stage.

At first, Paul Clarkson’s production feels misguided. It’s all a little too twee: scantily clad fairies run about the stage giggling, with flowing strips of material, face paint and a vast amount of backcombed hair. But after this shaky beginning, the production blossoms (or should that be Peaseblossoms?) and Clarkson offers some ingenious in-the-round staging all at a fabulously jaunty pace.

The whole cast is excellent, with Michael Burgen as Cheek (Bottom in the original) a highlight among the hilariously dimwitted villagers. But the real star is the music, as a host of intriguing, uplifting, funny and beautiful songs spill from the stage. ‘Jennifer’ is one of the best, sung by David (Joshua Tonks), Alexander (Alastair Hill) and Jennifer (Rachel Flynn), the delightfully confused lovers drugged by fairy king Angel (Christopher Hancock). It’s a witty, delicate and complex number performed with perfect timing. And the two soaring songs chorused by the entire cast at the end of each act take your breath away.

Bound together by bewitching music, ‘The Dreaming’, much like Shakespeare’s original, is a charming mix of magic, mayhem and madness.

By: Daisy Bowie-Sell

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