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Children don't act. Acting is a grown-up thing. Acting requires experience, self-knowledge, self-awareness, all manner of tricks and skills, `turnings and windings'. But children play. They play at being someone else, a character. And that requires honesty, great earnestness and intense faith. It requires believing in what you are playing totally. An actor who ceases to believe in the character he portrays can get by through habit and devices. A child who ceases to believe in what he or she plays just stops. The thing ceases to exist. The child who plays, sees, hears, feels the character and the action. The actor sees, hears, feels himself in the character, engaged in the action. Actors have skill, technique; actors are artists. Children who play are rough and clumsy, awkward. Actors embellish. Children who play speak plain and rush to the point. Actors take themselves seriously. The children take the play seriously. And we should take the children seriously. For here, the play comes first. And what a play!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I originally bought the VHS copy of this film on a trip to the UK many years ago (I had and still have a multi-system VHS player, so I could watch this) mainly because I collect Shakespeare on video ... and after watching it I was absolutely floored at how good a production this was. It begins with British school children watching a marionette production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (with the marionettes charmingly voiced by Derek Jacobi as "Duke Theseus" and Samantha Bond as "Hippolyta"), but when the character of "Hermia" begins to speak, one of the school girls leaps to her feet and begins to speak "Hermia"'s lines. From that point on, reality and Shakespeare's dream world merge and switch places. Dressed in Elizabethan costumes, these children (some of whom make up in enthusiasm what they lack in acting ability) are a treat to watch. None of Shakespeare's lines have been cut in this production, and the actors in this film don't have any formal training, but they do a wonderful job...a lot better, in my opinion, than some of the performers in previous or subsequent filmed versions of this play.
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