Thursday, June 02, 2016

My Review of A Midsummer Night's Dream (2016)

Written by William Shakespeare & Russell T. Davies (adapted)
Directed by David Kerr

Theseus: "This is the silliest thing I have ever heard."

It's been a little over a year since we've had anything from Russell T. Davies on television and after the sheer joy of Cucumber/Banana/Tofu, he's back to take on one of the Bard's most interesting of works and give it something of a modern twists. There are even tablets to mark people for death but a little bit more on that later.

To keep the summary short, we've got John Hannah as the dictator like Theseus, ruling over a state with some unsubtle Nazi symbolism whilst keeping his would be bride, Hippolyta (Eleanor Matsuura) trussed up like Hannibal Lector for the duration of the ninety minute adaptation.

Then there's Hermia (Prisca Bacare), about to be sentenced to death by her father for refusing to marry Demetrius (Paapa Essiedu) because she's more in love with Lysander (Matthew Tennyson) while Helena - one of the highlights, as skillfully played by Kate Kennedy pines for Demetrius the most, though he does not initially return her affections.

On top of that, you've got a slew of performers - Bottom (Matt Lucas), Starevelling (Richard Wilson), Snout (Bernard Cribbins), Flute (Fisayo Akinado) to name a few are rehearsing a play led by Mistress Quince (Elaine Page) while the mischievous fairy prince Oberon (Nonso Anozie) goes to war with warrior Titania (Maxine Peake) and all kinds of chaos quickly ensue.

From the moment that Bottom literally becomes an ass, things really do take a bonkers turn throughout the play. The love 'quadrangle' of sorts between Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius takes several amusing turns (including an almost moment for two of the characters) while Titania's sudden infatuation with Bottom is something of a sight to behold as well before she realises that Oberon played his role in things.

However it's the last fifteen minutes that truly is the highlight out of the whole as Theseus's downfall during the play is spectacularly done while the characters most deserving of a happy are given during a rather colourful and musical conclusion.

Russell T. Davies was definitely the best person to adapt this particular piece and Kerr's direction brings the whole thing to life with a cast that are pretty faultless from beginning to end. In a way, it feels like a Doctor Who episode and with the various people associated from that show amongst the cast and crew, the comparisons are apt. Then there are people like Peake and Akinado who definitely need to appear in that series eventually.

A lot of controversy was made about Davies editing certain parts of the play (allusions to suicide aren't present) as well as upping the gayness, particularly with the kiss between Titania and Hippolyta but all he did was modernise the thing and the contemporary feel is nothing new with Shakespeare adaptations these days. However despite the disappointing ratings, poor promotion and the fact this was relegated to a Bank Holiday Monday, this version of A Midsummer Night's Dream truly is a treat for the eyes and ears.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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