Will Dr Who Sell You on Shakespeare?

The Beeb wheeled out Peter Capaldi for its launch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream due to air on BBC1 at the end of May. Not because he’s in it but because the entire play, adapted to an ‘accessible’ 90 minutes by Who’s reinventor Russell T Davies and filmed with the special effects team at Roath Lock in Cardiff where Dr Who is made, it’s fashioned specifically for Whovian fans.

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

That honour goes to Maxine Peake, from Silk and Dinnerladies, surrounded with vigorously multicultural fairies and two exciting stage actors in telly debuts as the lovers: 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 specializes 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 (ask your dad).

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 telly 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.