★★★ | A Dream, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

A warm midsummer evening, a busy hospital, a plethora of patients and staff and a mash up of Shakespeare’s best characters come together in A Dream, where the most infectious thing doing the rounds on the wards is love. Written by Chris Bush, Sheffield People’s Theatre combines a collective talent of over a hundred people to interlace some of Shakespeare’s best-known works.

Photo Credit – Mark Douet

The stories include a doctor who falls in love with a cleaner; the love between two gay men, and the impact of their love upon their parents and the relationships between parents and children. Married couples explain the secret of their relationships longevity, whilst youngsters fall in and out of love as they try to find their own way in life. Add into this mixture a number of Shakespeare staples – the girl who disguises herself as a boy, distinctions in social class, the case of mistaken identity, the issue of families separated through tragedy. All of these familiar elements are pulled together in this production.

Bringing A Midsummer Night’s Dream into modern times, via quips, quotes and characters from As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing and Anthony and Cleopatra, A Dream makes for a whimsical and light-hearted evening which has a number of points of appeal. Chris Bush interweaves the lives, loves and stories of a number of characters, in an intertwining narrative which is light and bouncy. There are a handful of brief musical interludes and pieces of choreographed movement which are enough to keep the pace moving but not numerous enough to class it as a musical.

But beneath the whimsy and the somewhat seemingly superficial storyline was something that had real heart. The show looks at different ways in which love can manifest itself and how love can transcend boundaries of age, gender, social standing and sexuality. There is a real heart to the show, nowhere more blatant than a very well-written tribute to those who work day in day out in hospitals; and who make a difference to people’s lives with every shift that they undertake.

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The show was presented well with an engaging clinical set and some good performances standing out amongst the masses. Some of the scenes seemed slightly superfluous, some slightly overlong and some seem to run out of momentum a little prematurely. But overall this is a well-written and crafted piece undertaken by a large cast of over one hundred enthusiastic performers.

Similar in style to Dickensian, which recently graced BBC One; the show can certainly be enjoyed on face value, but there is also ample opportunity for spotting the Bard references for the more ardent Shakespeare fans. It is fitting that with the setting of the hospital and the over-arching theme of love, this show is a love letter to the NHS, to the theatre and to love itself.