Edinburgh – The Dreamer

I love what Gecko do.  Since I first saw The Overcoat at this same venue, Pleasance Grand, in perhaps 2009, up to last year’s Institute at HOME in Manchester, I’ve been wowed by the combination of physical theatre, sound, lights and set which combine to create something very special.  There is an immersive quality to the shows that draws you into the unique and highly visual worlds Gecko create.

The Dreamer is just as spectacular, creating a world of both isolation and magic.  Based on the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion, this production is produced with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and performed by a Chinese cast.  The dialogue is predominantly Chinese, which is not a problem, because the immersive feel of the production draws you in.  Many of the key scenes are quite stunning.

But the combination of two original works sits uneasily, because it is necessary to know both stories to get the most out of this production.  That might favour a Chinese audience more, as I’m guessing the Peony Pavilion was virtually unknown to this Edinburgh audience.  That makes it a strange version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, rather than a show that could be greater than the sum of its parts.

Titania falls for a wonderful Bottom but nothing more is made of these characters.  Instead we enter the realm of a more beautiful but less recognisable story of tenderness and magic.  Visually stunning but this kind of production – fusing two stories from two cultures for two audiences – has to be less effective in one of those countries.

Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh, to 15 August 2017.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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