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National Youth Theatre at The Criterion, London.
On a bleak winter’s day, there’s sunshine to be found in the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus. In what must be the prettiest venue in London the UK’s National Youth Theatre is performing a heart-cockle-warming production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream – the third and final production from its 2019 NYT REP season.
The company was established in 1956 as the first youth theatre in the world and over the past 60 years, it has nurtured the talent of hundreds of thousands of young people, continuing to be recognised as a world-leading youth arts organisation. Today NYT discovers, develops and showcases exceptional performers and theatre technicians aged 14-25 from the UK. This production is directed by former National Theatre New Works Resident Director, Matt Harrison, working with the wonderfully creative Kneehigh theatre company. The inventive setting is a seaside funfair where waltzer-car doubles as Titania’s bower and a forest of helium-filled balloons provide the backdrop for the night’s mischief.
Actress and writer Kate Kennedy has neatly abridged the text and, like magic, the ninety minutes fly by. The 16 young cast members deliver their roles with skill: uplifting gusto and gentle nuance as required. Julia Kass’s, confident Hermia, voices her frustration over her presumed betrayal by friend and lover with perfect passion whilst Billy Hinchliff and Sonny Poon Tip create great comedy, vying for Helena’s attention.
The gender-blind casting of Helena and Bottom work well because Jamie Foulkes and Jemima Mayala do a brilliant job bringing depth and physicality to their words. Mayala creates a beautifully bumptious and boisterous Bottom and Foulkes’ Helena, even with the stubble, is totally believable as Hermia’s “…painted Maypole”.
Closing the play, the performances of the Players presenting their tragedy are light and fun although, in delivering Thisbe’s dying words, Natalie Dunne manages to convey a level of emotion and pathos normally reserved for Juliet. Amongst these “Hard-handed men of Athens” the prize for role interpretation, however, must go to Jordan Ford Silver whose Snout as Wall has to be one of the best you’ll ever see!
It’s a great array of talent, such stuff as stars are made of. Catch it while you can!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Criterion Theatre, 218-223 Piccadilly, London W1V 9LB until 17 January 2020
Evening performance at 1900 on 9 & 16 December 2019 and 13 January 2020
Matinee performance 1300 on 12, 13 & 16 December 2019 and 14, 16 & 17 January 2020
Tickets are available from £15.00 and are bookable online.
All photo credits & copyright: Helen Murray
Looking for something different? We’ve reviewed a couple of excellent Christmas productions this year. Find out more about Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith. Or for ballet, we recommend Coppelia at the Royal Opera House or The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall.