The Union Theatre is a small fringe theatre with very intimate spacing that is situated in the heart of Southwark. The theatre itself has reputation for staging high-quality musicals in its tiny studio space, examples such as a very successful run of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta season.
In spite of all this it has recently petitioned to keep their space as it has been threatened with closure and are soon to be moving to a purpose built facility nearby.
The Dreaming is based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare and was commissioned and premiered by the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT), first performed at the National Theatre, Exeter in August 2001. The action takes place over a mid summers weekend in 1913, in a woodland, park and garden around Broxton, a hilltop manor near Midsomer Magna and a quiet Somerset village.
From the off the score is simply entrancing. The use of instruments from the woodwind family create such an eerie atmosphere, aided only by the exposing space of The Union Theatre. These instruments, injected with occasional brass input, created an appropriate level of a period style for the original story by Shakespeare. David Griffiths (The Musical Director) made some exquisite decisions with the score – highlighting its well executed reoccurring use of the compositional devices, accumulation and call and response. All of which complemented Helen Rymer’s innovative choreography, contact work particularly.
As well as the gorgeous score and inventive choreography, particularly for the size of the space, there are also comic moments in abundance. Specific moments include the the ‘lost in the woods’ moments between the couples and Alastair Hill’s rendition of the song ‘Jennifer’, which was hilarious and over the top. However, at certain points it became falsely emphasised and a bit campy. Additionally, the villagers play at end was incredibly funny due to the under-energised ‘am dram’ style of the performance they were delivering.
The standout performance of the night came from Daisy Tonge, due to her strikingly good looks, strong vocals throughout and specifically for stealing all attention, regardless of there being almost full ensemble, during the song Heart Of The Wood.
Reviewed by Tom Yates