Review  /  Arts & culture

Playing with gender expectations at Barnfield Theatre

An Exeter College interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream transforms it into an enchanting contemporary gender-adapted tale.

Exeter college   Barnfield theatre   Lgbtqia+  

On the pink-lit stage of Barnfield Theatre, a teenage boy stands in a dress made of Poundland carrier bags alongside Bottom, Francis Flute and Robin Starveling reimagined as zero-hours workers.

This is just one way in which this Exeter College student production has twisted, shifted and moulded this well-known story for a contemporary audience. While Athens and the forest remain the same, inside are found not only the motley zero-hours crew, but also gender-flipped interpretations of Lysandra, Theseus and Puck.

Following last week’s Exeter Pride, themes of gender and sexuality are fresh in the air. This staging seems to create a space in which concepts are free to flow in all directions. Without focusing on a plot line typically associated with explorations of sexuality - the “coming out” narrative - the play simply allows relationships that are not typically represented to flourish. Without drawing much attention to the two lesbian couples on stage, they are embedded into the story rather than separated from the familiar tale.

Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Barnfield Theatre Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Barnfield Theatre. Photo: James King.

I discovered after the play had finished that the company had employed gender-blind casting, allowing the personality of the character to determine the choice of actor, rather than their gender. This gives the production a much more feminist feel than a straight telling, as girls take on a whole new range of roles.

From a calm and commanding Theseus, to a wild Lysandra and even wilder Puck, this rendering of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as much a testimony to the power of women as it is to love, in all its forms.

Furthermore, the company explores the character of the Moon, or Artemis, as she guides the young female characters. As Helena struggles to understand her own agency in the world as it all collapses around her, Artemis stands by her in otherworldly grace. The same is true when Hermia and Lysandra struggle to define the boundaries of their relationship: both too are comforted by the Artemis figure.

Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Barnfield Theatre Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Barnfield Theatre. Photo: James King.

Besides subverting the unspoken laws of gender, this performance also tests the bounds of movement. The dance in this performance is incredible. It isn’t just contained in tightly controlled sequences, but fills the stage from one scene to the next. Oberon delivers his lines between acrobatic flourishes as his sidekick Puck leaps and bounds in playful glee. The very stage seems fluid: it is a joy to watch.

And, if all this seems heavy - weighed down by concepts of gender and sexuality - remember that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, after all, a comedy. In which a teenage boy stands on the pink-lit stage of Barnfield Theatre in a dress made of Poundland carrier bags.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Exeter College UAL students is showing at Barnfield Theatre at 7.30pm Friday 17 and Saturday 18 May, and at 2pm on Sunday 19 May.


 is a seventeen-year-old climate activist, writer and student at Exeter College.

 

 subedited this article.

More Arts & Culture
Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Review  /  Arts & culture

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

Read more ...

Photo of The Jambassadors by Gabe Riedlinger

Preview  /  Arts & culture

Jambassadors feature in pop-up Jazz Toast at Barnfield Theatre

Musical director Roz Harding invites us to join an Exeter College Music Academy student collective in a one-night-only experimental exploration of in-the-moment improvisation.

Read more ...

Extreme Imagination - inside the mind's eye exhibition at Exeter RAMM

Review  /  Arts & culture

Extreme Imagination - Inside the Mind's Eye

University of Exeter research fellow Dr Matthew MacKisack guides us through a RAMM exhibition that explores works by artists, writers and makers with widely varying visual imaginations.

Read more ...

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

Preview  /  Arts & culture

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

A new collaboration between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought SW and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture by reimagining objects from the RAMM collections.

Read more ...

Kaleider Mikrofest Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter Princesshay

Review  /  Arts & culture

Out of sight, out of mind

A performance of From The Light of The Fire, Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter for Kaleider Mikrofest appears to favour illusion over truth in a confused rendering of Plato's cave allegory that leaves both performers and audience in the dark.

Read more ...

Climate & Environment
Exeter Global Climate Strike demonstrator holding placard

Analysis  /  Climate & environment

Exeter youth climate strikers launch Green New Deal for Devon

Fridays For Future Exeter have published a detailed vision of a more equitable future that calls on elected representatives across the county to recognise the climate crisis as a symptom of a dysfunctional political economy.

Read more ...

Exeter Global Climate Strike Bedford Street crowd

News  /  Climate & environment

Thousands march in Exeter for global climate strike as millions mobilise worldwide

Fridays for Future Exeter led 3500 people on a climate crisis demonstration through the city backed by dozens of organisations on the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Read more ...

Exeter Extinction Rebellion funeral march climate crisis High Street

News  /  Climate & environment

Mock funeral march brings Exeter city centre to a sombre standstill

Extinction Rebellion campaigners brought the gravity of the ecological emergency home to Exeter on Saturday in a funereal procession commemorating wildlife loss caused by climate change.

Read more ...

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate protestors with banner

Opinion  /  Climate & environment

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate - the floodgates are open

Exeter is one of the smallest cities in Britain, yet it has produced some of the country's biggest youth strikes. Climate activist Sophie Sleeman recounts the story so far and explains what it means to the young people who are creating a global wave of change.

Read more ...

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

News  /  Climate & environment

Exeter Extinction Rebellion stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Read more ...

Planning & Place
Front elevations of proposed development at Mount Radford Lawn

Feature  /  Planning & place

Mount Radford Lawn development proposals conflict with St Leonards community vision

Exeter Deaf Academy hopes to sell a school playing field to developers who plan to build luxury homes. Local residents have other ideas about how best to use the land. A dispute is looming over an historic green space driven by prospective profit from planning gain.

Read more ...

Exeter Clifton Hill sports centre

Briefing  /  Planning & place

Clifton Hill sports centre – the background

Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and dumped a huge amount of snow on the roof of Exeter's Clifton Hill sports centre, setting off a chain reaction which has ignited two campaigns and put Exeter City Council's approaches to competence and openness into sharp focus.

Read more ...

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan banner

Briefing  /  Planning & place

Is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan GESPing for air?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan has been a long time in gestation. When it finally arrives, will it deliver?

Read more ...

Exeter St James period housing stock

Opinion  /  Planning & place

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

Read more ...

Strategy & Governance
East Devon Independent Claire Wright 2019 general election candidate

Feature  /  Strategy & governance

East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest

Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.

Read more ...

2019 Devon County Council Heavitree & Whipton Barton by-election Exeter vote share swing bar chart

News  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter Labour support collapses in Heavitree & Whipton Barton county by-election

Greg Sheldon wins Devon County Council division by just 40 votes after Labour loses nearly a fifth of its previous vote share.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council cuts executive decision-making scrutiny

News  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter City Council cuts scrutiny of executive decision-making

Constitutional changes proposed by Exeter City Council will make it more difficult to hold the ruling political group to account.

Read more ...

Exeter anti-government protest Devon for Europe speaker

Comment  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter protest misses its mark by mixing its messages

One of Exeter's biggest ever street demonstrations combined anti-Brexit and pro-democracy concerns to produce a confused protest against government policy.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closures Exeter Live Better hoarding

Briefing  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter could do better - was there no alternative to closing so many public toilets?

Exeter City Council did not need to close thirteen public toilets to balance the books. The money to keep them open was available in reserves, but no mention of this option was made during public decision-making by councillors or officers.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closure notice

Briefing  /  Strategy & governance

Caught short - balancing the books in a hurry

Exeter City Council has unapologetically confirmed its decision to close 13 public toilets as a money-saving measure with full knowledge of its expected effect on residents and visitors. Can we expect other spending cuts to be handled the same way?

Read more ...

Molly Scott Cato at the European Parliament

Interview  /  Strategy & governance

Is EU membership essential to our ability to deal with the climate emergency?

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, visited Exeter during her re-election campaign to explain why the EU and its Green Group is leading the way on a wide range of progressive policies.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council city centre wards map

News  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

Read more ...

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

Profile  /  Strategy & governance

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

Read more ...

Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

Analysis  /  Strategy & governance

What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?

Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.

Read more ...

Transport & Mobility
Country Bus G service to Exeter Quay

Feature  /  Transport & mobility

An integrated public transport service for Devon remains a distant aspiration

A change to Exeter's G bus service operator has revealed the limits of Devon County Council's approach to transport system integration.

Read more ...

Dutch living streets woonerf sign

Longread  /  Transport & mobility

We already know what to do about the climate crisis. We must get on with doing it as fast as we can.

Exeter and Devon council leaders must begin rapid regional decarbonisation now. The quickest, cheapest way to cut emissions in Exeter is to deter combustion engines from entering the city. Clean air legislation offers a basis for action.

Read more ...

Historic Exe Bridge traffic

Opinion  /  Transport & mobility

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

Read more ...

More stories
Photo of The Jambassadors by Gabe Riedlinger

Preview  /  Arts & culture

Jambassadors feature in pop-up Jazz Toast at Barnfield Theatre

Musical director Roz Harding invites us to join an Exeter College Music Academy student collective in a one-night-only experimental exploration of in-the-moment improvisation.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council city centre wards map

News  /  Strategy & governance

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

Read more ...

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

Profile  /  Strategy & governance

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

Read more ...

Exeter Clifton Hill sports centre

Briefing  /  Planning & place

Clifton Hill sports centre – the background

Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and dumped a huge amount of snow on the roof of Exeter's Clifton Hill sports centre, setting off a chain reaction which has ignited two campaigns and put Exeter City Council's approaches to competence and openness into sharp focus.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

Analysis  /  Strategy & governance

What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?

Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.

Read more ...

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan banner

Briefing  /  Planning & place

Is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan GESPing for air?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan has been a long time in gestation. When it finally arrives, will it deliver?

Read more ...

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

News  /  Climate & environment

Exeter Extinction Rebellion stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Read more ...

Kaleider Mikrofest Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter Princesshay

Review  /  Arts & culture

Out of sight, out of mind

A performance of From The Light of The Fire, Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter for Kaleider Mikrofest appears to favour illusion over truth in a confused rendering of Plato's cave allegory that leaves both performers and audience in the dark.

Read more ...

Exeter St James period housing stock

Opinion  /  Planning & place

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

Read more ...

Historic Exe Bridge traffic

Opinion  /  Transport & mobility

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

Read more ...

More galleries