In pictures: Gecko creates a dream world in Shanghai

Tags: Shakespeare International collaboration Photo gallery

Check out our photo gallery as we go behind the scenes of The Dreamer, Gecko and Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre’s first collaboration, inspired by the works of Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu  

Puck throughs sleeping dust over Helena as she dreams. photo: Gecko

Helena dreams. Photograph: Gecko

Take a peek behind the scenes of Gecko and Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre’s The Dreamer, inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and his Chinese contemporary Tang Xianzu’s The Four Dreams of Linchuan.

The Dreamer centres on Helena, one of the four young lovers in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. After realising she cannot keep the man of her dreams, Helena falls deep into a stormy landscape of extraordinary visions, hideous nightmares and vivid memories. Gecko and Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre's first collaboration merges emotionally driven movement and striking visual storytelling, against a spine tingling soundscape. 

The British Council commissioned this production, along with three others, as part of Shakespeare Lives, our global programme celebrating Shakespeare throughout 2016. The Dreamer premiered at Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre on 7 October 2016.


Three actors sitting seperately with their hand raised on stage. photo: Gecko

Hermia (left) and Lysander (middle) at work on stage at Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre

The Dreamer brings Helena and her friends into a modern world of busy offices and messy nights out. Gecko never pins things down too tightly: here, surreal office wheely chairs with in-built lighting allow audience members to see their own workplaces in the sequence.   

Helena watched over by SDAC's Mechanical Ensemble. photo: Gecko

Helena is watched over by the Mechanical Ensemble (performers from Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre)

In The Dreamer, the Mechanicals are portrayed as magical theatre technicians, building sets and telling stories throughout the show. The ‘magic’ which we associate with A Midsummer Night’s Dream is conjured through the magic of theatremaking and the beguiling power of ensemble storytelling. 

Gecko’s with performers of SDAC rehearsing on stage. photo: Gecko

Gecko’s Movement Director Chris Evans rehearses with the Mechanical Ensemble on stage

Gecko took 10 performers through two months of training. It was the first time the performers had ever performed movement like Gecko’s fluid, precise physical style. Chris Evans and Rich Rusk ran daily movement classes alongside rehearsal.

The Mechanical Ensemble playing with shadows.

The Mechanical Ensemble play with shadows

Traditional Chinese shadow puppetry formed the bases for the Tang Xianzu dimension of the story. Gecko used moving screens and dynamic shadow images to bring the story of The Peony Pavillion to life as part of Helena’s vivid dreamscape.

First look at a very different Bottom.

First look at a very different Bottom

Here, Evans experiments with Bottom’s transformation. Combining Puck and Bottom to make a monster! In China, audiences are not always familiar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and turning a man into a donkey is a very difficult thing to portray without words. The Gecko artists spent a long time making sure that the themes of the story would be clear to every audience member.

Helena looks out to the audience as she falls into her dream. photo: Gecko

The stage fades away as Helena enters her dream world

Every image in The Dreamer is created by the performers. Helena's journey is brought to life through shifting set and changing costumes, lighting the space and multi-rolling the Mechanical Ensemble. This rehearsal shot shows Helena’s bedroom exploding around her as she dreams.

Richard Rusk directing actor Helena as she wakes photo: Gecko

Arise, fair Helena

Evans works with Chinese performer Cordelia (Helena) on a sleepwalking sequence. The cast worked around the clock to be ready for the show, which was incredibly demanding, mentally and physically.


Photographs: Gecko 

Find out more: 

> Find out more about Gecko's creation of The Dreamer in China 

Read director Richard Rusks' blog on his experience of working with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre

Experience an online festival of Shakespeare with the BBC

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