The Dreamer
  • By Lynn Rusk
  • |
  • 4th Aug 2017
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Chinese physical theatre influenced by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the contemporary Tang Xianzu’s The Peony Pavilion. Quite a synopsis to get your head around, but Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre in association with Gecko do an astounding job at making this piece an accessible, slick, sexy and sensational watch. On entering the venue the audience were greeted by cast members scurrying around with head torches, an award winning two-storied set and a spine tingling soundscape in the background; the atmosphere was set.

This show is an assault on the senses; visually stunning, audibly mesmerising and heart stoppingly thrilling.

The show centres around Helena a re-imagined character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream who in this production is a single, put upon female office worker in her late twenties living in Shanghai. This play touches on the issue of the ‘left over women’ in China; women who are stigmatised for not yet being married in their late twenties. With a constantly moving set we are transported into many different scenes from the office, to Helena’s bedroom, to nights out in Shanghai. The cast members so skilfully move and change the props while telling their story through beautifully executed movement sequences. Even though this piece was in another language and mainly told through physical theatre it remained accessible throughout.

This is a stunning representation of both traditional and modern China with Chinese shadow puppetry and the scenes in which we follow Helena’s daily life in Shanghai. Dream versus reality is a huge theme as is magic which is where Puck and Bottom and all of the other characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream come to life. Helena’s longing for love is played out in her dream sequences contrasting to the reality of her somewhat routine put upon work life where she feels left behind by her peers. This show is an assault on the senses; visually stunning, audibly mesmerising and heart stoppingly thrilling. I left the theatre on such a high as I knew I had just witnessed something very special.

Reviews by Lynn Rusk

The Studio

The End of Eddy

King's Theatre

Cold Blood

Pleasance Courtyard

Nina Conti: In Therapy

Assembly George Square Studios

The Stevenson Experience: Identical as Anything

Assembly Rooms

My Leonard Cohen

Underbelly, Cowgate

Zach Zucker – Human Person




The Blurb

Inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Peony Pavilion by his Chinese contemporary, Tang Xianzu, this vibrant production uses Gecko's trademark style to blend emotionally driven movement, a spine-tingling soundscape and striking visual storytelling to bring a new twist to these classic texts, performed by a Chinese cast. Created by Gecko's associate director Rich Rusk and devising performer Chris Evans (Gecko's: The Overcoat, Missing, Institute, The Time of Your Life, The Wedding), The Dreamer is an international collaboration between Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and Gecko, created as part of British Council's 2016 Shakespeare Lives programme.