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 »
There are two reasons why you might want to watch this version of Midsummer Night's Dream. One is Helen Mirren. She is lovely and perfect as Titania throughout and her delivery of the long monologue to Oberon in Act 2 Sc. 1 does not lose the viewer's attention for a moment. That is an awesome feat considering what a difficult passage it is.
The other shining moment occurs in Act 3 Sc. 2, starting about when Demetrius wakes up to find that he is in love with Helena. The ensuing lines are delivered over top of each other, as the lovers engage in a confused quarrel. The actors add to this by pushing each other, trying to get around or over or under to talk to someone other than the one that's talking to them. Great directing and perfect timing make this scene race by like I've never seen it before.
These two shining moments hardly make up for the rest of the performance which lacks sparkle. Some parts are sung (Puck's "Jack shall have Jill" speech) which is just incongruous. Perhaps the fact that Starveling sings his part as Moonshine is a bit of self-satire.
Which brings me to the rude mechanicals who are particularly lacklustre. Geoffrey Palmer is absolutely wasted here. "Pyramus and Thisbe" is absolutely boring. There are exactly two bits of comic business (Bottom steals food from the wedding table on the line "'Deceiving me' is Thisbe's cue" and Starveling as Moonshine tries to upstage Bottom by hanging the lantern in front of his face) and they aren't exactly hilarious. If it's not funny, it should at least be moving, but although Flute (a very feminine Flute) tries, the director has cut most of the wedding party's backchat and they seem to have little interest in what is going on on the stage. Small wonder really.
There's nothing about the sets and costumes, which suggest the English Civil War, to get us excited. The entire first scene is set in a library against a background of a ticking clock. What a great way to remind us how slowly the scene is moving!
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