Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tang Xianzu’s mythical romance The Peony Pavilion, The Dreamer is an imaginative dance theatre work that blends movement, melodrama, comedy and live music into bewitching storytelling.
The Dreamer, which comes to Auckland Arts Festival this week, was created by British theatre company Gecko and the artists of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Society to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Desperate to escape a humdrum life and the social pressure of finding a husband, Helena retreats to her dreams, where she encounters the man of her dreams.
Gecko’s devising performer Chris Evans says Helena’s story in A Midsummer Night’s Dream of desperation to find love has a striking parallel in modern China.
In China “they have a derogatory term for women in their late 20s who are not yet married… they are referred to as ‘Left Over’.” Parents of single people sometimes even list them on a market website and often the people who are on ‘offer’ don’t even know that their parents have made a profile for them.
The show’s universal theme of a search for love, is told through a combination of shadowplay, an immersive soundscape and a cast of expressive dancers and musicians.
"In a Gecko shows language is not the central carrier of meaning, but instead physicality carries the story … and that helps the more poetic visual part of the brain to open up.”
The big plus is that as well as being visually stimulating, audiences from anywhere can connect with the story despite not sharing a common language.
Chinese classic plays are based heavily on text; Chris Evans says the challenge was to enable the performers to use their bodies to communicate. The first priority was to create a safe place for the performers to experiment and possibly fail.
“In Chinese culture there is a strong emphasis on saving face … but he says it became an unforgettable transformative process when the performers let go of their natural inhibitions and became both bold and vulnerable.”
Far from being a cliched story of romantic love, each audience member who sees The Dreamer will come away with their own interpretation.
With a violinist playing live on stage bringing the score to life, Chris Evans describes as “fuel being poured on the show to create a stunning effect.”
The Dreamer opens tonight at Auckland Arts Festival at the Civic and plays each night until Sunday 24th March.