The second televised production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Helen Mirren in the cast, although this time in a different role (Titania). In the 1968 production, which was released to movie theatres in Europe, but premiered in the U.S. on CBS-TV, Ms. Mirren played Hermia. See more »
a very disappointing production of a splendid play
Most of the productions in the BBC's Shakespeare series range from good to excellent, but there are a few duds. This production falls into the latter category. It is perhaps the worst, and certainly one of the worst, in the whole series.
The shortcomings arise chiefly from the inept directorial job by Elijah Moshinsky (though Nigel Davenport doesn't help with some painfully bad acting -- or, rather, expressionless reciting in lieu of acting -- in Act I). The four actors who portray the young lovers deliver excellent performances, but their efforts are undermined in Act III.ii by the director's disastrously ill-advised decision to have them speak quite a few of their lines simultaneously. Equally bizarre is the director's tendency to chop up and rearrange portions of the dialogue and to delete other portions. (Contrary to what is stated in two of the other reviews on this site, it is certainly not the case that all the dialogue is included in this production. A few of the deletions are well judged, though most of them are at best pointless.) If a director has so little respect for Shakespeare's art, why would he take on the task of directing this play at all?!
The performance by Phil Daniels as Puck is quite good, but it could have been much better if a competent director had reined Daniels in when he became too brisk and shrill in his articulation of his lines. Directorial incompetence is even more woefully evident in Act V. The mechanicals' play within a play is grimly unfunny. Having seen 60-70 productions of "Dream" during the past quarter of a century, I have never come upon a worse rendering of the final Act.
Helen Mirren is superb, but Peter McEnery is far too fierce in his portrayal of Oberon. He is clearly an adept actor, but he was let down by the director; a competent director would have reminded him that "Dream" is a comedy and that he ought to be striving for more humor and less ferocity.
This production does not altogether obscure the magic of Shakespeare's wonderful play, but it is overall a sore disappointment.
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