For one night only, BBC One becomes ‘The Globe Theatre’, with a bold and accessible 90-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Adapted by Russell T Davies, it is a truthful version of the play – the original play, the original words, the original Shakespeare. Warm and funny, it will have as much attitude and invention as any theatrical interpretation.
“I’ve wanted to make this for the BBC for my entire adult life – and only the BBC can put on a play like this, for all the family, smack-bang in the heart of primetime. With a riot of prosthetics, CGI, magic and action, it needs the brilliant Doctor Who team in Cardiff to bring it to life.” – Russell T Davies
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a much-loved comedy by William Shakespeare, set in the tyrannical court of Athens and the magical forest around the city. The single drama will be for everyone: children, who can laugh at Bottom and his Mechanicals and marvel at the fairies’ awesome powers; for adults, who know those broken hearts and star-crossed lovers all too well; for whole families, united in front of the television to enjoy the play’s dazzling world of danger, jokes, scares, poetry, thrills and fun.
The production will be transmitted in 2016 as part of BBC’s Shakespeare Season. It’s of course not the first time Shakespeare has appeared in prime time UK television. The BBC has since the 1930s produced numerous versions of his work. ITV has also not shied away from the bard. The first ITV outing for Shakespeare was a live broadcast – never recorded – of The Comedy of Errors in May 1957 starring Patricia Routledge. Associated Rediffusion would go on to produce further offerings in the form of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which featured Benny Hill in June 1964 and a music celebration of the bards work in Lyrics By Shakespeare starring Cleo Laine.
ATV for ITV produced a number of Shakespeare productions including Romeo and Juliet with Dame Edith Evans and Dame Judi Dench, Hamlet with Richard Chamberlain, Twelfth Night starring Tommy Steele and Sir Alec Guinness, The Merchant of Venice featuring Laurence Olivier, Antony and Cleopatra with Richard Johnson, Janet Suzman and Patrick Stewart, The Comedy of Errors with cast including Michael Williams and Dame Judi Dench which was to be ATV’s final offering of a dramatisation from The Bard of Avon. However in the same year, 1978, the company produced for ITV the lavishly produced story of the playwright in The Life of Shakespeare starring Tim Curry in the lead role.
Pictured top: The recreation of The Globe Theatre at the ATV Elstree studios (now BBC Elstree) for The Life of Shakespeare.
Pictured bottom: A stained glass portrait of William Shakespeare as featured on the staircase window at the Chateau Impney Hotel in the West Midlands.