A Midsummer Night’s Dream at NTR

When it comes to theatre, I haven’t seen many plays. I tend to lean more towards musicals, but as Shakespeare is a big part of my English course, I thought I’d step outside my comfort zone and spend a bit of time with the Bard. When I saw that Watermill Theatre’s Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were coming to the Norwich I knew I had to see one of them.

Photo by Richard Kenworthy

Having never seen one of Shakespeare’s plays in person, I was a little nervous about the performance. Fortunately for me, the Watermill Ensemble uses an innovative method of performance: blending Shakespeare’s plays with popular music. A Midsummer Night’s Dream had smooth jazz age songs and modern folk scattered throughout, which was perfect, as I adore Nina Simone and her style of music.

I must admit, it did take me a little while to get into the show, but once I re-accustommed myself to hearing verse I was good to go. We accidentally went to a signed performance which was a blessing in disguise, as it meant that when I got lost and missed a line or two, I could just look up at one of the two discreet screens rolling through the dialogue.

Photo by Richard Kenworthy

In terms of theatricality, Watermill seems to have hit the jackpot with its combination of actors and musicians, as the two mediums blended seamlessly to fulfil Shakespeare’s narrative. When I saw that the show was mixed with music I was intrigued and it was one of the reasons I wanted to see it in the first place. I mean, its not often you hear the names Nina Simone and William Shakespeare in the same sentence. My original concern was that it would feel like two separate shows: a bit of narrative, jazz song, bit of narrative, song. However the two were consistent and coherent and wove together to create a unique style of performance.

Photo by Richard Kenworthy

All the roles were played superbly and there wasn’t a single role that seemed even remotely miscast. Emma Barclay’s portrayal of ‘Bottom’ was hilarious and her scenes were some of the best responded to by the audience. Another role I felt was particularly well cast was Emma McDonald as ‘Titania’ , she brought a lucidity to the role, and her portrayal brought authenticity to a somewhat fantastical character.

Photo by Richard Kenworthy

This year’s tour ended in Norwich however, the show is returning to the Watermill Theatre in February for a limited run.

If you want to read more of my theatre reviews you can visit my ‘Theatre‘ page and find them all there.

I’d love to know if you’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream before and what you thought of the production. Overall, I found it a unique experience and on a quest to explore more of what the Bard has to offer; have booked to see Othello when it comes to the Playhouse later this week. After two Shakespeare plays in the space of a fortnight, I might need to find a musical, or two.



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