Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Shakespeare Retold: Midsummer Night's Dream (2005)
An engagement party is interrupted by a young man. It emerges that he and the female half of the supposedly happy couple are in love. She confesses that she does not love her fiancee-to-be and wants to be with this newcomer. Her parents, probably understandably, are a mite upset, and the event causes the problems with their own relationship to boil to the surface. The young woman's best friend meanwhile thinks she is making a terrible mistake by ditching the aforementioned fiancee-to-be ... but is secretly a little conflicted because she has always carried a torch for the jilted fellow. Seeing all this emotional turmoil, the King of the Fairies sets out to ensure a happy ending for everyone. Unfortunately, he's having his own romantic troubles and will get no help from his capable wife. Instead, he must rely on a rather less-than-competent minion. Hilarity ensues.
Well, assuming you have a particular definition of "hilarity", that is. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream has always relied on a very broad and ribald sense of humour, much of it on the mean-spirited side. This is very much a tale of laughing at other people's misfortune. "Isn't it funny that both the fiancee-to-be and the gatecrashing young man have now been magicked into loving the best friend, instead of the woman they were originally smitten by?" ... well, given that both the women in question are humiliated and upset by the whole thing, my answer would have to be "no".
Obviously plenty of people do find this stuff funny of course, since we're still making adaptations of the play four hundred years after it was written. And this particular version profits from having a very likeable cast. They can't salvage the cringe-based-humour for me (nothing can), but they make the other parts touching and amusing, with the result that, at the inevitable happy ending, I had a smile on my face.