Tuesday, July 5

Electric Dreams – Liverpool Theatre Festival

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s classic tale of love and longing set in a magical forest overrun by mischievous fairies. Every summer several companies around the country stage a version, usually promising their own unique twist on it, but rarely managing to do anything that hasn’t been done countless times before. Enter Electric Dreams, a 1980s themed jukebox musical version, under the artistic direction of Kate Allerston and artistic and musical direction of Chris Bastock, creating a truly refreshing piece of Shakespearean theatre which is a colourful and fun piece to welcome autumn in the spectacular grounds of Liverpool’s Bombed Out Church. 

Opening with a full cast performance of We Built This City, a solid wall of trench coats and sunglasses keeps the bright colours of the 1980s as a surprise for when we enter the midsummer forest itself. The costumes feature many iconic 1980s pieces, from Wham’s “Choose Life” t-shirts to Madonna’s hot pink fingerless gloves with matching legwarmers and tutu. Brilliant fairy wings also add a touch of magic, and the costumes cleverly nod to the amateur actor roles of the mechanicals by combining carefully constructed outfits contrasted with clumsier offerings.

Overall, the cast are very strong, though unfortunately some musical introductions overlapped with dialogue rendering it inaudible, so timings could be improved in places. A smoke machine enhanced the sense of magic in the 1980s wonderland, but at times this was a little too heavy.

Titiana (Zoe Curlett) and Oberon’s (Keiron Crook) rendition of Tainted Love is a particular highlight in the piece which brings a new dynamic to the tumultuous relationship between the Fairy Queen and King. Curlett’s strong vocal skills and Crook’s excellent acting combine to create powerful and fascinating chemistry. Helena’s (Lucy Hitditch) unrequited love for Demetrius (Michael Nulty) is truly heartbreaking and her duet of Total Eclipse of the Heart with Crook is brilliant both vocally and choreography wise.

The choreography, by Claire Redford, is excellent and performed very well by the cast with the musical accompaniment being provided by the Neon Dreams Band. Timing is excellent for the synchronised pieces while other dances have a sense of freedom and creativity which embodies the spirit of Shakespeare’s enchanted land.

Snug (Anna McGary) is very good, bringing a defiance to the role rather than the nervous slapstick character usually portrayed. Nulty is fabulous as the cross and downhearted Demetrius, with his sleeping dance being a particular highlight of the show as he embodies the very best of zombie B movies.

Puck (Morgan Brame) is excellent, with Brame bringing a unique roguish wickedness to the role which goes beyond the usual playful mischievousness seen from the clumsy fairy. Very funny and encouraging the audience to get involved at any opportunity, Brame breathes life and colour into the magical Athenian forest.

One of the issues often seen in jukebox musicals is songs being forced into a story, not quite working and feeling a bit awkward, but on the whole the songs chosen fit with the plot well. Hermia’s (Lani Heywood) rendition of Time After Time after being abandoned by Lysander (Scott Cooper-Holmes) is a prime example as she sings of him falling behind as he trails after Helena. The company are very enthusiastic and have evidently developed close working relationships to create a special piece of theatre.

Electric Dreams is an original take on the Shakespearean tale of fairies and metamorphosis, which, with the 1980s theme and music, transforms into even more a trip than usual. A hint of local humour and a varied soundtrack put a new spin onto the story creating a hugely entertaining and hilarious show which pulls you into the colourful and delightful world of the 1980s where the characters will always be together.

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 5th September 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★