There have been countless adaptations of various Shakespeare plays created for both TV and film – perhaps because, despite their age, they really are timeless. Several A Midsummer Night’s Dream have been and gone (I remember the one starring Rupert Everett most vividly from school), but this new adaptation, directed by Russell T. Davies, is probably one of the most memorable version I have seen so far.
Hermia (Prisca Bakare) and Demetrius (Paapa Essiedu) are due to be married, but Hermia wants to marry Lysander instead. Theseus (John Hannah), the rather militant Duke of Athens, and Hermia’s uncle refuse anything less that Demetrius for her, and so she decides to run away with Lysander (Matthew Tennyson) in the middle of the night. Hermia’s jealous friend Helena (Kate Kennedy) hears of their plan, and so tells Demetrius in the hope that he will love her instead. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t happen, and the four of them end up lost in the woods at night time, unknowingly surrounded by two very angry sides of the Fairy Kingdom.
As many of you may know, Russell T. Davies is the director of Doctor Who, and it’s quite easy to see. From the beginning we see his signature style, from actors to set (you may recognise one of the streets as the set of the Doctor Who episode ‘Face The Raven’). He’s certainly put his own twist on the original play by Shakespeare – the characters are darker, the location is gloomier, and there are several parts that you won’t have read in the original. Although it can often fail, Davies has modernisation of the play to great effect. There’s a lot of technology used in Theseus’ castle, and the characters all have modern day clothing. Thankfully he’s kept the archaic script, rather than translating in into 2016 speak. Sometimes it sounded a bit odd (especially when paired with the modern characters), but generally worked quite well.
Matt Lucas played a brilliant Bottom, and both Maxine Peake and Nonso Anozie were great as the feuding Titania and Oberon. Many of the cast were relatively new on the scene, and so it was nice to see what they had to offer. Although they were all good, I felt at times that some of them came across as a bit too theatrical (especially with some of the larger scenes with many background characters) – I felt as though the TV adaptation should have been a bit more subtle with this. One thing I really liked was just how accessible the whole thing was – although some of the Shakespearian language may have gone over your head, you still knew exactly what was going. It can be quite hard to truly get what is happening just from the script as our language has evolved so much since then, and the visuals paired really nice to enable all ages to understand what was going on. It was also very suitable for children and young adults, and so I imagine ticks the English Literature box straight away (I wish I’d got to watch this one in school instead).
As with many BBC adaptations, it was a really good attempt to diversify Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream whilst still retaining that original essence. It wasn’t the best Shakespeare adaptation I’ve ever seen (you just can’t beat Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet), but it‘s definitely in my top three.
It inspired me to go and read the play again, and so I’m giving it 4/5.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at CeX
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