Category is… Shakespeare

An all-dancing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is hoping to reach new audiences by setting it against a 1980s backdrop of striking workers and vogue ballroom culture

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Three worlds collide somewhere in the 1980s and bring with them a broad range of influences from that era including vogue ballroom culture, striking workers, yuppies, gender fluidity and neon, in a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A co-production by Blackpool-based community theatre company the Electric Sunshine Project, hip-hop arts school House of Wingz and Blackpool and the Fylde College, the show will combine the classic text with modern elements and feature electrifying street dance energy.

Set in Athens, Shakespeare’s comedy revolves around four Athenians who run away to a forest and meet Puck the fairy, who causes two young men to fall in love with the same girl. There are several subplots revolving around the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. In the woods we are introduced to the mechanicals, a group of artisans rehearsing for the wedding.

Being performed at the Old Electric in the centre of Blackpool is a reimagined version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream called simply  Dream. The modernised version will bring to life all three different worlds – the mechanicals, the fairies, and the lovers – with each co-producer taking responsibility for one and bringing their individual interpretation of it.

Blackpool and the Fylde College has cast its students as the lovers and is staying true to the original text, helping students to achieve their curriculum goals in drama. House of Wingz is taking on the world of the fairies. Its performance will involve high-energy movement and have a late-night dance party vibe. The Electric Sunshine Project has the responsibility of the mechanicals and has focused on the comedic elements of the roles.

Melanie Whitehead, artistic director of the Electric Sunshine Project, based in the Old Electric theatre and community arts space, spent eight and a half years at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She explains why she thinks it’s important to bring the stories to life on stage for a modern audience.

“I worked as part of the education team and we were trying to work out how to make Shakespeare accessible to everybody,” she says.

“What we found is that a lot of people spent a lot of time reading it.

“It’s really hard to read Shakespeare so the real nub of the Royal Shakespeare Company was about performing it and giving those accessible versions for people to connect with.

“The point of that was not because it’s this dead language from 400 years ago or because these stories are just told and retold – it was more about the idea that Shakespeare is brilliant at describing the human condition.

“We’re setting our version of Dream in the 1980s. We chose that because what House of Wingz do is a lot of work with young LGBTQ+ people, so they’ve been doing some work around exploring culture and they wanted to bring that element into the mix.

“We have edited the text down massively. To say that Shakespeare is over 400 years old, there is some stuff in there that feels a little bit flabby, and we don’t need to say the same thing several times over.”

House of Wingz is a creative hub in Blackpool that invites members of the community to get involved in arts activities such as dancing, acting, music production and fashion design.

Director of House of Wingz Sam Bell plays Puck – the mischievous, witty fairy who lives in the forest and encounters the four runaway Athenians.

“My crew is the fairy crew,” she says. “Mainly our scenes are based around dance to tell the story. It’s super important in opening it up to a wider audience. Dance is at the core of it for us.

“Playing Puck is really interesting because – I probably shouldn’t say this – there are definitely similarities between my character and Puck so in that sense it’s been quite easy to transition into the role.

“We’re still doing a lot of work now into what route I’m taking. There’s so much to think about as I’m used to just dancing in shows or getting the physicality down and we’re going with a gender fluid Puck so it’s going to be interesting.”

Dream is on 20&21 May at the Old Electric in Blackpool (

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