Review: Dreaming The Night Field, Guildhall Theatre, Derby

The Guildhall Theatre in Derby is the perfect setting for the intimate telling of an incredible tale by three masters of their craft.

Between them, storyteller Michael Harvey, composer and musician Stacey Blythe and singer Lynn Denman, give a spellbinding performance that draws the audience into an ancient Celtic landscape for a retelling of the mythological, magical fantasy The  Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion.

Dreaming The Night Field: A Legend of Wales was brought to the theatre by Adverse Camber Productions as part of the Derby Folk Festival – and with its beautiful evocative music and poetic storytelling it was aimed at the best possible audience. They probably could only have enjoyed it more if they also happened to be Welsh-speaking.

Indeed the women seated behind this reviewer were totally immersed in the magic of it all as they could appreciate the bewitching language.

The source story which inspired the performance is one of the earliest works of literature found in Britain. The Mabinogi is divided into four tales (or branches) and were compiled from oral tradition in the 11th century.

The fourth branch tells the story of Math, a magician king who rules Gwynedd in north Wales. His feet must be held by a virgin at all times except when he is at war. As he is a peaceful king, this is all of the time.

However Gwydion, nephew to the King, a magician and master storyteller, provokes a war between North and South Wales and unleashes a chaos of consequences.

Honour, justice, magic and transformation collide in a story as relevant today as it ever was, where people seek to spin, manipulate and control, and nature reveals its deep power.

The three players use wooden branches to help them conjure up the seashore, a mountain range, deer and wolves as the story unfolds on stage. The storyteller, Michael, first had the idea to use the sticks having been inspired by sculptor Andy Goldworthy’s work with a ballet company.

Set designer Sophia Clist, who likes to create installations for performers to manipulate and transform, was tasked with making it work and she excelled.

The producer of the show was the founder of Derbyshire-based Adverse Camber Naomi Wilds and the director was Paula Crutchlow.

Dreaming The Night Field is now touring the UK and the closest it can be seen to Derbyshire is Colston Bassett Village Hall, Nottinghamshire, on November 24. Go to http://www.adversecamber.org for details and other UK venues.

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