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Midwinter Magic

Motionhouse's after dark outdoor dance-circus piece is an imaginative take on The Tempest in Shakespeare's New Place, Stratford.

Production photos credit: SBT & Stewart Writtle

All the world’s definitely a stage in Motionhouse’s new one-hour after dark midwinter acrobatic dance-circus promenade piece.

And the stage is the contemporary sculpture garden at Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon – on the site of the playwright’s former family home.

Shipwreck. Photo credit: SBT & Stewart Writtle

The Sunken Knot Garden, the Victorian Great Garden and even the first floor viewing platform each become set pieces in an imaginative performance inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest opening with a reconstructed shipwreck, using a steel frame box, and ending magically in the circular garden surrounding His Mind’s Eye – South African artist Jill Berelowitz’s realistic 5m high bronze tree sculpture and cosmic sphere.

Dancers on the viewing platform, above the Sunken Knot Garden.

In this collaboration with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust dancers from one of the UK’s leading internationally-touring dance theatre companies in modern-dress and trainers leap athletically onto the cosmic sphere, dangle from the branches of the bronze tree and balance on top of and inside a Perspex semi-circle as if swimming underwater.

Midway we’re led through the Visitor’s Centre cheered on by the dancers in celebratory party mode near to the entrance where three couples proceed to jump acrobatically on-and-off a high wooden bench-like sculpture. Comically they’re joined by a male dancer wearing a naked fat suit (see below). One of the most daring feats is when two of the girls’ freefall from the table and are caught by their partners.

We’re led around the gardens by ‘Shakespeare’ in a navy suit pen in hand, to a contemporary soundtrack of hypnotic pulsating dance beats. The garden is theatrically lit in festive reds and whites.

You have to admire the 11 lithe performers braving freezing temperatures – but at least some are wearing body-warmers including two sprite-like girls in silver jumpsuits who are at one-point cling-filmed to a tree. Interesting.

A thrilling, magical experience which makes great use of the outdoor space – but wrap up well!

Midwinter Magic at Shakespeare’s New Place runs until Sunday Dec 17. Two 1-hour performances start at 5.30pm & 7.30pm. Limited tickets are still available online but you’ll have to move fast as time slots are selling out quickly: shakespeare

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