Over the weekend, the Far Outliers watched the 1968 production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (via Netflix). The production itself was not very impressive—with cheap sets, poor lighting, and primitive special effects—but the Bard’s script was outstanding and the troupe of actors was quite remarkable. It was eerie to watch so many now-famous veterans of stage and screen in the prime of their youth.
The leading female roles were played by:
- Judi Dench as Titania the Fairy Queen, in blueface and barely clad;
- Helen Mirren as Hermia, a lovestruck 1960s flower child and not at all queenly;
- Diana Rigg as Helena, as dashing and self-possessed as ever.
The leading male roles were played by:
- Ian Richardson as Oberon the Fairy King, a Francis Urquhart in blueface and loincloth;
- David Warner as Lysander, somewhat unearthly, as in his many sci-fi roles;
- Michael Jayston as Demetrius, a bit understated, like his subsequent career;
- Ian Holm as Puck, overacting, in sharp contrast to his roles in The Lord of the Rings (2001), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), or Game, Set, and Match (1988).
I must admit I have a soft spot for this play, since I once acted the role of Lysander in high school. But my favorite piece is not the love story, but the witty dialogue and audience commentary during the play within a play in the final act.
THESEUS I wonder if the lion be to speak.
DEMETRIUS No wonder, my lord: one lion may, when many asses do.