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)