Did we like it?
It was like building a bouncy castle of modern drama on the foundations of the Acropolis.
What was good about it?
• The potent theme which cascaded throughout the narrative, of acting and taking decisions because of the obligations of duty, intimidation or tradition, which leads to unhappiness, rather than following instinct, which brings joy.
• A very strong cast. The best of whom was Imelda Staunton as the repressed Polly, wife of the insensitive and, sporadically ogrish, Theo (Bill Paterson). The scene when she finally chastised him for his boorishness, and her consequent meekness, was a worthy centrepiece of the drama.
• Bill Paterson was excellent too as he conveyed Theo’s domineering persona through the way in which he almost seemed to have chosen James as his daughter Hermia’s husband-to-be rather than her.
• Dean Lennox Kelly as Puck. The way Puck’s asides to the viewers were intermingled with the rest of the play was often a welcome relief.
What was bad about it?
• The four strands of drama were too often too loosely linked together, and each one meandered badly off course at least once. This was exacerbated in that the whole drama was too long and each of the tales concluded at staggered intervals meaning that there were four separate endings; made worse by the central narrative (James and Hermia’s abortive engagement) all but finishing first, thus resulting in the subsequent scenes being bolted on to the end like household extensions performed by Billy The Kid Builders.
• If some of the conversations were physically manifested, they would have stretched over three time zones. The characters rambled on in a bizarre hybrid vernacular of elegiac Shakespearean poetry and 21st century banalities. This dialogue appears to have been composed not out of theatrical necessity, but through some blind deference of the Bard as if inserting some of his original script into the modern environment no matter how incongruent and awkward it was.
• While we are not familiar with the original play, if Shakespeare ever wrote the words: “Say the three magic phrases all women need to hear – ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I love you’ and ‘You were right.’” as Oberon advised Theo, then he should be cast down from his throne as the thane of all literary gods into the flames of illiteracy hell alongside Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown. That patronising generalisation was an obtuse cliché, even in this uneven script. While we accept the advice was more a truncated inference to say loving couples should communicate with one another better, such a trite encapsulation merely exhibited evidence of BBC “dumbing down”.
• The comedy of Queen of the Fairies Titania falling in love with the grotesque Bottom was stripped of much of its hilarity by the sheer predictability, and that such a scenario, while it might have originated with Shakespeare, is no longer amusing because it is a device used too often.
• Judging by the frost on the breath of the characters, it most certainly wasn’t Midsummer when it was filmed. This also meant when Hermia and Helena spent the night sleeping in the forest in flimsy dresses, they should at least have been admitted to hospital for the effects of hypothermia.
• While there was much verbose language flying randomly about like gunfire on the Western Front, very little insight was expressed and often had the profundity of the Jeremy Kyle Show.