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A Midsummer Night's Dream - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1981]

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews


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Product details

  • Actors: Helen Mirren, Peter McEnery, Phil Daniels, Robert Lindsay, Brian Glover
  • Directors: Elijah Moshinsk
  • Producers: Jonathan Miller
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: DDHE/SIMPLY - under license from BBC Worldwide
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0010YUQ36
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,293 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors - A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM [1981] In the woods of Athens, runaway couples, the King and Queen of the fairies, the impish sprite Puck and a band of common artisans prove "the course of true love never did run smooth" as they play out a comedy of love and the confusion it sometimes brings. Shakespeare's fairytale comedy contains some of the most lyrical expressions of love, dreams and imagination. The production is star-studded, with Helen Mirren as Titania and Peter McEnerey as Oberon dominationg the proceedings, supported by a superb cast. As the 'New York Times' wrote "they are all accomlished performers, but the director has given the extras dimension of using them brilliantly in terms of television."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I might be a bit biased here as it was this BBC-production that, when shown on German television about twenty years ago, brought me to be a Shakespeare devotee, but I still think that it is absolutely the best adaption of the Dream so far- Helen Mirren and Peter Mc Enery are great as Titania and Oberon and as for Robert Lindsay, he was a marvellous Lysander, way out of his depth when lost in the woods. It may not have the Tuscan views of the big Hollywood version with Rupert Everett, but for sheer histrionic brilliance, I`d watch it over and over again!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This version of the play is well done but I found that I much preferred the action in the fairy glades to that which was set inside and I would have liked more special effects in keeping with the magical events. However, I particularly liked Titania's dress and hairstyle which reminded me of Pre-Raphaelite subjects, in fact the fairy bowers had a light dreamlike quality. Also I regard the choice Brian Glover as 'Bottom' to be inspired and I can't recall when I've seen the role preformed better. Both Helen Mirren and Peter McEnery provide the quality acting you would expect.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A good version.Just right for me to view as we are performing this play soon.
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Format: DVD
I hope that everybody associated with this production is proud of it, and of their part in it. I honestly think that given the constraints of budget and time (not to mention the large scope of the play itself), it is a triumph.

Producer Jonathan Miller and director Elijah Moshinsk deserve great credit for a piece which looks more sumptious than Miller's "King Lear" (as it needs to) but which is every bit as intelligently directed. In terms of lighting, sets and costumes, much has been taken from seventeenth century painting and masques. The night-time forest is a delight, as are the very funny scenes between the enchanted and misled lovers. The production boasts a uniformly strong cast which includes Helen Mirren (Titania), Robert Lindsay (Lysander), Nicky Henson (Demetrius), Phil Daniels (Puck), Peter McKenery (Oberon), Nigel Davenport (Theseus), Brian Glover (Bottom), Geoffrey Palmer, Don Estelle, Pippa Guard, etc.

In short, this is a first-rate production of what has to be one of Shakespeare's greatest and most magisterial of plays.

Beyond the "Subtitles" and "Scene Selection" options, the DVD has no extras.
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By RR Waller TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Aug. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have seen many productions of "The Dream" in the theatre and cinema but, without doubt, this is the best; although it does not have the excitement and dangers of live performances, it is an excellent, full production with some splendid actors well-versed in Shakespeare.

Filmed in the studio but retaining the feel of the stage (but a BBC stage!), its limited acting areas concentrate attention on the language; the low-lighting quality and simple sets achieve the same. Unlike films with a vast canvas, often a distraction, this never loses its focus from the dimly-lit appearance of Puck in the forest to his solo appearance at the end:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.

The only feature I think unkindly of are Bottom's ears, most unlike the objects they are meant to represent. However, it's such a small fault, not worth an earful! One element of filmed/televised Shakespeare which is often poor is the one element which should be outstanding - the sound quality and the diction. On this DVD, both are excellent.

Robert Lindsay makes a wonderful bemused Lysander, Cherith Mellor as Helena is not "as ugly as a bear" but captures the feelings well and Geoffrey Palmer's patient Quince is so diplomatic attempting to organise the motley crew headed by Brian Glover's exasperatingly enthusiastic Bottom. There are too many wonderful performances to mention.

Suffice to say, buy it and watch it.
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Format: DVD
Although this is a low budget, small scale adaption it is actually one the best available. Produced by Jonathan Miller, starring Helen Mirren with Brian Glover, Geoffrey Palmer and Phil Daniels and superb original music by Stephen Oliver.

What gives this production the edge is that is captures the dreamlike, midsummer atmosphere perfectly, and the low budget means it feels like a real stage set rather than some hollywood studio.

Proof that small, traditional productions can still outshine lavish or innovative interpretations.
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Format: DVD
When Clive James was writing his never-bettered Observer TV column in the '70s & early '80s, he was able to review some of the generally excellent BBC Shakespeare marathon, and he loved this one. So do I.
It was directed by Elijah Moshinsky with an eye to painterly sets and shots, tight close-ups ~ often of two characters in dialogue ~ where the slightest movement can make you gasp, and acting of, for the most part subtlety and humour, with more than a dash of magic.
Two of the most impressive performances are by Pippa Guard as Hermia and Cherith Mellor as a very funny, alert, bespectacled Helena. Both speak the lines to perfection, and both underplay to great effect. Their counterparts are a lightly ingratiating Robert Lindsay as Lysander and the stern, harried Demetrius of Nicky Henson. The foursome work so well together it almost seems as if they've been doing it in rep for months.
Of the mechanicals, Geoffrey Palmer is a smooth, dignified Peter Quince, bald Brian Glover a perky, porky Bottom, with Don "Lofty" Estelle and Nat Jackley very good as Starveling and Snout.
Helen Mirren is a Titania to make any ass swoon, and Peter McEnery {remember him?} is a nicely dark and brooding Oberon. Both know how to speak Shakespeare naturally and clearly. Puck is broad cockney Phil Daniels, who is a good choice, and effective as a kind of fairy wide-boy, even if he stresses the wrong words much of the time {eg. words like 'of' and 'that' rather than the nouns and adjectives}.
Nigel Davenport brings both clarity and serenity to his benevolent Theseus, and Geoffrey Lumsden hits just the right tone as Hermia's concerned dad, Egeus. Estelle Kohler is a slightly scary, definitely otherworldly Hippolyta.
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