The Culture Vulture

As part of her English course the eldest daughter is required to read a little Shakespeare, specifically “A Midsummer Night Dream”. Over the past few nights the wife and she have been reading through the play acting out the various parts to give the daughter some sense of what the play is about before she starts getting into it in school.

Things were made a little easier in that regard while we were out shopping for bits and pieces in a local ‘technology store’ when the wife came across exactly what we needed.

Back in 1978 the BBC set out to produce “The Shakespeare Collection”, filming all the plays in a form fit for television. The series of programmes they ended up with were considered then to be as good a true representation of the actual text as you could want. In addition they used the best producers, and especially the best casts available. The result was outstanding.

As luck would have it, the store we went to had just *one* of these masterpieces available… A Midsummer’s Night Dream!! What’s more, it was on sale for a ridiculously small price… just $19.95. Naturally we bought it, and settled down to watch it after dinner.

My response is just ‘wow’. This particular play, first screened in 1981, stars Helen Mirren, Peter McEnery, Robert Lindsay, Brian Glover, Geoffrey Palmer and Phil Daniels. What a group… and how nice to see them in their prime!! Actors of this quality really add tremendous power to what are already highly charged words. I was completely sucked in and so were both daughters. For an 8 year old and an 11 year old to be so transfixed by Shakespeare was amazing!

Of course as yet we don’t have any real idea how much information the eldest girl absorbed. And of course Jonathan Miller’s production might have added a little confusion of its own. I’m not sure she totally understood why the actors were talking as if they lived in ancient Greece… whilst they wore Elizabethan clothing… yet were being tormented by fairies. In fact after Puck’s first assault on Lysander we paused the play for a few seconds to make sure they understood some of the ramifications of his actions. Still, as far as we could make out, they followed the plot and coped pretty well overall, but will need a few more views and a few lessons in general history before they begin to appreciate the finer points of the text! Which of course can be said for a lot of us!! 🙂

Having said that, the wife and I enjoyed the performance immensely and on the strength of that one viewing, might just trawl around other shops looking out for more in the series… or even visiting the local ABC shop to see if they have any tucked away somewhere at as reasonable cost!

This is one of those times I *really* miss the ready access we had to cultural hub of London, and especially the Royal Shakespeare Company who’s London home at the Barbican was just a very short walk from our flat. In fact there is so little ‘culture’ available to us here it’s dreadful. We are really going to have to make more of an effort to get these kids to live plays etc. They are missing *so* much by living out in the sticks!!

It’s time to start reading the ‘entertainment’ pages of the local rag for opportunities!


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