A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 400 and still young!

Posted on 23 April 2013

William Shakespeare is certainly one of the best known writers on the planet and without a doubt one of the most widely translated and quoted authors of all time. His works are widely appreciated, with tens of thousands of research papers, diploma theses and analyses which must have been written on his works. The extraordinary nature of his language is widely known, the width of his talents famous. With the controversy of whether Shakespeare did actually exist and whether it was a single person or possibly several writers, he remains one of the largest mysteries of literature.

This summer, one of his finest comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is returning on stage at London’s West End at the Noel Coward Theatre to entertain yet another generation of viewers. Written almost half a century ago, it still remains one of the most widely performed comedies.  Over a dozen films and TV adaptations have been made until this day. Ranging from musicians, filmmakers and painters, it has been an inspiration for many including Henrik Ibsen’s novel  St. John's Eve, Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman, in which Shakespeare and his company perform the play for the real Oberon and Titania, and Terry Pratchett's novel Lords and Ladies.

Felix Mendelssohn composed an overture which was inspired by the play, so did Carl Orff and Elvis Costello composed the music for a full-length ballet Il Sogno, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Interestingly, also The Beatles have been involved in one of the play’s versions.  The "play within a play" from Act V, Scene I, Pyramus and Thisbe was performed by them on 28 April 1964 for a British television special; Around The Beatles. Paul McCartney appeared as Pyramus, John Lennon as Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, and Ringo Starr as Lion. The performance, before a live audience, was done with great comic intent and included a number of intentional hecklers.

The latest theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Michael Grandage, who is also bringing Henry V, The Cripple of Inishmaan and Peter and Alice on stage, this production promises entertainment for all. The cast includes Sheridan Smith, both television and theatre actress with previous experience with Shakespeare playing in The Taming of the Shrew, who will be Titania and David Walliam, well-known from the sketch show Little Britain, who will be Bottom. With Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream staged at London’s West End, this year’s Shakespearian season will certainly be nothing short of exciting.

[by Petra 23 April 2013]


Picture: "Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing". William Blake, c.1786