Ginger Hibiscus | The Dreaming Review at Union Theatre by Ginger Hibiscus
The Dreaming by Howard Goodall and Charles Hart Review at Union Theatre London by Ginger Hibiscus
The Dreaming Review at Union Theatre London by Ginger Hibiscus Howard Goodall Charles Hart
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09 Sep REVIEW: the dreaming at the Union Theatre

It’s 1913 in Midsomer Magna, Somerset, and the runaway son of a blacksmith, Jack (Simone Murphy), creeps through the forest, searching mythical woodland creatures. At the same time, the beautiful and oft-admired Charlotte (Holly Julier) is reported to have eloped with a local man, Alexander (Alastair Hill), despite already being engaged. As her betrothed, David (Joshua Tonks), sets out in pursuit, he in turn is followed by Jennifer (Rachel Flynn), a young woman whose affection is unrequited, and yet undiminished. Jack ventures deeper into the enchanted forest, finding his sought-after woodlanders living in two fairy tribes led by Angel (Christopher Hancock) and Sylvia (Daisy Tonge). Passionate lovers, they fight for possession of Jack in a conflict that drives them and their tribes apart, as they become increasingly aware of the strangers in their midst. An enchanting reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the dreaming has everything you could want in a musical: beauty; magic; love; humour; intrigue; jealousy; and energy, like you’ve never seen before.

The movement, choreography and direction from Helen Rymer and Paul Clarkson are phenomenal; woodlanders scurry about the place, at times sinister and imposing, at others gentle and affectionate, swarming and striking, creating mischief and caring for each other. This, coupled with Kingsley Hall’s brilliant design, takes us into the heart of the forest with Jack, as we’re surrounded by curious woodlanders stirred into a frenzy by tribal instincts. Daisy Tonge is exquisite as Sylvia, equally as beautiful to watch as to listen to. She moves with an unusual grace, commanding the stage even through her silence, a powerful presence and the definition of a leader.

Amongst the beautifully bizarre comings and goings of the woodlanders, Reverend Plum (Michael Chance) leads a group of hopeless thespians in their rehearsals of The Ballad of Saint George. Chance’s comic timing and expression compound brilliant writing, to result in some of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Helped along by some hilariously dead-pan performances from his actors, notably played by Michael Burman and David Breeds (making his professional debut), we’re treated to the ballad in full, in a scene that left me literally crying with laughter; it’s one of those where the more you watch, the harder you laugh, and every one of the innumerate details just makes your face ache that little bit more.

Of course it’s the cast that bring the muttering woodland alive, and it’s incredibly exciting to say that with a cast with so many members making professional debuts, there’s not a weak link amongst them. As well as David Breed mentioned already, Alex Green and Richard Brindley give invigoratingly energetic performances as Bob and Julian respectively, and Rachel Flynn is particularly outstanding as the “unloveable” Jennifer, self conscious and bemused by the advances of intoxicated eyes, delivering an excellent acting as well as vocal performance. And of course it’s impossible to conclude without mention of Kayleigh McKnight’s gorgeous Henrietta, or Joshua Tonks’ David.

The dreaming, with music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart, is utterly bewitching; the culmination of so much talent both on and off stage creates an abundance of je ne sais quoi, giving a glorious new lease of life to the classic Shakespearean story.

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Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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