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19) A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare

Of Shakespeare's really famous plays, this is probably the one I knew least well before starting this project. It is brilliant. Somehow it all comes together, in terms of plot and language. The human side of the plot - conflicting love interests resolved by supernatural means, entertained by a local am dram group - is straightforward enough; the special bit is the fairy world. And somehow here Shakespeare manages to construct an alien culture, beings which have super powers yet whose motivations remain mostly familiar. Not knowing the play, I tended to assume the fairies would be more or less of the Andrew Lang variety, but these are much more serious beings.

It seemed comparatively short, and the text seems more approachable; certainly the humorous and farcical aspects of the plot are pretty timeless (none of the incomprehensible wordplay scenes of, say, Love's Labour's Lost). In particular, to my surprise, Bottom stands out as a vivid character - the guy in the club who thinks the whole thing revolves around him, and because he thinks so it has largely become true; and even having his head turned into a donkey's while the fairy queen makes love to him doesn't seriously faze him.

The Arkangel production has veteran comedian Roy Hudd doing a superb Bottom (climaxing with a glorious Pyramus death scene), and two other particularly good performances: David Harewood as Oberon and Adjoah Andoh (Martha's mother in Doctor Who) as Titania, playing the fairy couple with Caribbean accents, which of course adds to their exotic characterisations (as does the effective soundscape). Amanda Root and Saskia Wickham are good also as the human girls, Hermia and Helena. The most enjoyable so far.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
Of course the actor who played Bottom did think that way and Shakespeare famously did not get on with him. That speech in Hamlet about actors speaking the words as they are written and not adding bits in of their own was aimed at him. The fact that Bottom is the central, dramatic male role but at the same time a total buffoon is a nice piece of revenge that almost certainly went right over the guy's head as it still seems to be doing to this day. Wish I could remember the actor's name and Wikipedia is being no damn help.
Oct. 26th, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
I think that was Will Kemp, who you'd have a devil of a time confirming in Google, because you need to look for Will Kemp, Will Kempe, William Kemp or William Kempe. Roll on the semantic web.
Oct. 27th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
Thankyou! That's the guy I was looking for. All my Shakespeare texts are in storage and it was making me itch.
Oct. 28th, 2008 08:12 am (UTC)
Nay, I can geek upon occasion.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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