TV Or Theatre: Which Midsummer Night's Dream Will Be Best?

By Johnny Fox Last edited 29 months ago
TV Or Theatre: Which Midsummer Night's Dream Will Be Best?
Midsummer Night's Drea,
Maxine Peake in Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: BBC

The Beeb wheeled out Peter Capaldi for its launch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream due to air on BBC1 this month. Not because he’s in it, but because the entire play has been adapted to 90 minutes by Who's re-inventor Russell T Davies and filmed with the special effects team at Roath Lock in Cardiff where Dr Who is made.

With Matt Lucas as Bottom, and Richard Wilson, Bernard Cribbins and Elaine Paige as the rude mechanicals it looks to us more like Carry On Up My Fairy Ring and we're faintly surprised Julian Clary isn’t Titania.

That honour goes to Maxine Peake, from Silk and Dinnerladies, surrounded with vigorous fairies and two exciting stage actors in TV debuts. The lovers will be played by Paapa Essiedu, who was a devastating stand-in for Sam Troughton in the Sam Mendes King Lear at the National and now the first black Hamlet for the RSC, and Prisca Bakare from London community theatre company Ten:Ten which specialises in work in prisons, schools and churches.

Meanwhile, since it’s ice cream weather, now’s an ideal time to catch the Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe, where maverick new artistic director Emma Rice has electro-shocked it with some modern text, some Bowie and a bit of George Formby.

The ‘mechanicals’ are theatre ushers and safety officers, and the lovers have a gay slant (as do some pairs in the BBC production). Twice as long as the TV version, it is quite relentless in its energetic attempt to be comic, but with sexy-voiced Zubin Varla (from the BBC’s Our Girl) as Oberon and incandescent cabaret vamp Meow-Meow as Titania — the casting’s faultless.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe runs until 11 September including a midnight show on August 28.  Tickets from £5 to £45 from the Globe website.

Last Updated 09 May 2016