Strippers and samba dancers bring Hackney to Shakespeare

Fairy Queen, pic: Tom Hunter

A new photography exhibition recreating scenes from Shakespeare’s rural comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a contemporary urban setting in Hackney opens tomorrow.

The exhibition by Hackney photographer Tom Hunter, which features  samba dancers, a stripper and a local thrash metal band, will go on show at  the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Helena, pic: Tom Hunter

Hunter, known for his photographic adaptations of Old Master paintings, aims to reflect the vibrancy of the borough.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s story and Romantic artist Henry Fuseli’s paintings, Hunter has created a series of nine photographs reproducing scenes from the play using people from Hackney.

The individuals are cast as characters from the play. The character of Titania, queen of the fairies becomes a Samba queen, while Helena, one of the two lovers, becomes a pole dancer.

Hunter said: “All these people are involved in their own performances. They live in parallel worlds, which rarely overlap. I really love the way Shakespeare has mixed everybody up. As our society gets more complicated, it gets more disconnected. The groups never seem to touch.”

Faithful Lovers, pic: Tom Hunter

“I am fascinated by tableaux and it seemed to me that the play has exactly this quality of being lost in the moment – of people being transfixed,” he added.

Hunter said Hackney has always been central to his artwork. He said his work seeks to “describe the local myths, covert struggles and secret dreams of its inhabitants which are typical of any community the world over.”

The photographs will follow the plot structure of the play and are intended to stand as individual works of art as well as parts of a larger narrative.

Titania, pic: Tom Hunter

The exhibition will run until April 1 at the PACCAR Room in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

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