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Recounting our dreams: imagining Shakespeare in two recent film and televised adaptations of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

An adaptation of a Shakespeare play often employs strategies that simultaneously recover and resist Shakespeare's version, presenting itself, on the one hand, as an adaptation of an original Shakespearean work and, on the other, as an original work daring to use Shakespeare's play as source. Implicit, or explicit, in these adaptations is a declaration of independence from a Shakespearean progenitor that paradoxically reaffirms a Shakespearean allegiance. What could be more Shakespearean than the audacious boast of an upstart crow? Or, in the case of Christine Edzard, little eyases that cry out on the top of question? Indeed, two recent adaptations of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Christine Edzard's The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream and Ed Fraiman and Peter Bowker's d Midsummer Night's Dream (for the Shakespeare Retold series), offer interesting variations of those two strategies, marked by bold redefinitions of space and of audience collaboration.

In fact, these two films are not so much adaptations of a Shakespeare play as they are a testing out of Shakespearean and theatrical decorum. Edzard's Dream, as Samuel Crowl, Mark Thornton Burnett and others have observed, challenges not only the opposing structures of theatrical spaces, proscenium and thrust, but the opposing forms of theatrical and cinematic conventions that somehow co-exist interdependently in her film (See, for example, Crowl 163-68 and Burnett 167-68). The Fraiman/ Bowker Dream is set in a Shakespearean theme park called Dream Park. The park not only parodies the structure and imagery of Shakespeare's play but mischievously exploits postmodern critiques of "Shakespeare" as tourist attraction, the spaces of performance--whether festival theaters or bankside Globes or whole communities such as Stratford-upon-Avon--refashioned as theme parks, vacation lands. And yet, for both films, such often rigorous processes of critique and deconstruction frame a celebration of these half-sleep, half-waking energies and delights of Shakespeare's play.

In a sense, both the Shakespeare Retold televised version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream are very much about the awkwardness of adaptation, where opposed cinematic and theatrical conventions fight it out for control of this story. Critics such as Michael Hattaway have argued persuasively that one reason comedies have not fared well on film is that the naturalistic and interiorized conventions of film resist the overtly presentational conventions of comedy, especially in the construction of comic character and comic space. As Hattaway notes, "[c]haracters in the comedies ... tend to the typical rather than the individuated and require settings that are neither wholly exterior nor wholly interiorised" (86). But these two productions get their life from such clashing conventions, conventions that, one might think, would have no business operating in the same play, like hot ice and wondrous strange snow.

Ed Fraiman and Peter Bowker's BBC television adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream is part of the Shakespeare Retold quartet of Shakespearean adaptations. But "Shakespearean adaptation" is not quite the most useful term to describe these works. As the series title suggests, these stories are not so much dutiful realizations of Shakespeare's texts as they are twice-told tales, ripe for the taking. Each of the four videos is more an adaptation of popular TV series or films or even pop-culture narratives than of a Shakespeare play, despite the fact that the title of each work seems boldly to announce a Shakespearean project. Thus Macbeth, set in a prize-winning restaurant owned by "Executive Chef" Duncan but run by an ambitious head chef, Joe Macbeth, is an adaptation that appropriates not so much Shakespeare's play but two playful adaptations of Macbeth: Joe Macbeth and Scotland, PA. Much Ado About Nothing is set in a TV newsroom, where Beatrice must share an anchor desk with her egotistical former colleague and beau, Benedick. In The Taming of the Shrew, an ambitious mother, a made-over Mrs. Bennet (where are Shakespeare's fathers here?), plots out marriages for her two daughters, the highly eligible fashion model Bianca and the highly ineligible conservative politician Kate. Kate hopes to follow her hero Margaret Thatcher into the prime minister's office, but her political ambitions have been hampered by a fiery temper and the absence of a spouse. Enter Petruchio, a boisterous, dissolute, and titled aristocrat, who hopes to wive it wealthily in Padua and London, the modest geography of Shakespeare's play expanded by the speed of supersonic travel.

For the most part, the tone of the Shakespeare Retold production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is playfully parodic, aware of its filmic and theatrical ancestors and offering a number of sly homages to them. There are, for example, bicycles everywhere and some key bicycle pratfalls, a nod to Michael Hoffman's film of this play. And there are splashy immersions, again recalling Hoffman, although this time it is the men who are dunked. The rude mechanicals, here employees of Dream Park, provide entertainment for guests but also moonlight as a Dogberry-style security force, fraught with some of the same workplace antagonisms that marked Branagh's Watchmen in his Much Ado film. In fact, Bowker's use of stand-up comedian Johnny Vegas to play Bottom may recall Branagh's use of funny men like Robin Williams and Billy Crystal to punch up the comic business of Osric and the gravedigger.

Moreover, Bowker's Dream achieves a kind of meta-meta-consciousness by filming the staged play on a cinematic location that turns out to be a Shakespearean Theme Park called Dream Park, a tourist attraction that also functions as a kind of retreat for troubled couples, where park employees such as Oberon and Puck minister to privileged and unhappy guests. Early in the film, in one of his many confidences with us, Puck (Dean Lennox Kelly) explains what every Shakespeare enthusiast knows by heart. By applying a love potion to lovers' eyes--an adaptation of the Coasters's "Love Potion Number Nine" coursing through the sound track--Puck will cleanse the windows of their eyes by distorting them. "Things aren't always what they appear to be," Puck instructs us. "The eyes are a window to the soul. But now and again we all need a good window cleaner." Puck, our connection in this play as well as our confidante, refers to such clarifying disorientation as "a kind of spiritual roulette." He then applies the potion to the camera lens, and we're off.

Like a number of recent film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, this production casts actors associated mainly with TV series and films along with other actors known for their work in "classical theater," with still others who are well-known figures in British popular culture. Such a collection of insiders and outsiders establishes both classical and pop-culture credentials for a production that wants to re-discover Shakespeare's play and send it up at the same time. So the Hippolyta figure, called Polly, is played by Imelda Staunton, a three-time Olivier award winner and an actor who has worked on Shakespearean film projects such as Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (Margaret) and Nunn's Twelfth Night (Maria). Lennie James (Oberon), a star in a number of television and film projects, is also a classically trained theatrical actor who has performed in Hamlet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Macbeth, and Pericles. Others are best known for their roles in popular British TV series and films. Johnny Vegas (Nick Bottom), as noted earlier, is a well-known stand-up comedian and comedy actor in such British TV series as Happiness and Room 101.

The space that defines this production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is neither theatrical nor cinematic but the geography of a Shakespearean theme park, as if to make literal the oft-repeated rhetorical critique of "Shakespeare" as a kind of Disney-like tourist and entertainment center. The wandering patterns of flight and pursuit invite the viewer similarly to wander the bypaths of the green world of Dream Park, as if we were walking through the curving streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, or of Northrop Frye's imagination. Dream Park has a number of restaurants, bowers, boutiques, all bearing some bardic name, a kind of Shakespearean product-placement barely hidden throughout the film. It's a bit like the landscape of Baz Luhrmann's Verona, where the text of Shakespeare becomes embedded in the geography and the architecture. But here Luhrmann's delicate balance between joy and irony tilts toward the latter. The meandering lovers finally meet, not in another part of the woods, but at the Globe Diner, where Shakespeare's rhetorical references to "the surfeit of the sweetest things" may here find their literal fulfillment. Moments earlier a despondent Theo (Bill Patterson), Hermia's father and a fusion of Shakespeare's Theseus and Egeus, drinks a round or two with an invisible Oberon, as they talk of the course of true love to the skeptical glances of passers-by. At the end of this adaptation, Theo, now a sensitive man aware of his anger "issues," renews his vows with his wife, Polly, in a courtyard named "The Shores of Bohemia," where, if there is enough time, one might make a purchase at Cleo's Crafts.

Indeed, part of the enjoyment of this production is spotting the fleeting presence of those verbal spaces in a video that otherwise makes limited use of Shakespeare's language. Most of the dialogue in the play is paraphrased at various distances from Shakespeare's text. Some of those paraphrases wittily gesture toward their Shakespearean original, hip to the difference, as when Titania (Sharon Small), doting on Bottom's asinine adaptation of "Strangers in the Night," instructs her fairies to "lead him to my love pad." "Are you following this?" Puck asks the camera. But for the most part, we're in a world of prose. Only at moments of high passion does a character's language ascend, temporarily, to Shakespeare's words, a kind of speaking in tongues. So when Oberon and Titania renew their love, Oberon begins reciting Shakespeare, though not necessarily words from this play. Oberon begins with sonnet 39--"O, how thy worth with manners may I sing / When thou art all the better part of me?"--then ascends to Juliet's definition of her love--"My bounty is as boundless as the sea"--until finally, improbably enough, Oberon makes Titania's own lover's vow his own: "O how I love thee, how I dote on thee."

Usually, those high moments of bardic language are punctuated by cynicism, sometimes Bottom's cynicism, sometimes Puck's, sometimes anyone's. These are playful, mocking moments, more in tune with the play's festive mood than with its sense of wonder. When Titania invites Bottom into her bower, Bottom's response defuses the wondrous moment with comic crudity: "It's not nylon sheets is it?" Bottom tentatively asks. "Because I get this rash." Bottom's response not only subverts what is perhaps the most miraculous embrace of opposites we experience in this play, but at the same time provides a matter-of-fact, prosy, embarrassingly literal explanation of why Bottom, such a tender ass, "must scratch" (4.1.24). Not surprisingly, the character most likely to "deflower" Shakespeare's poetic language is Puck. After listening impatiently to several lines of Oberon's "love in idleness" aria, Puck interrupts: "Do you want the bleedin' love juice, or what?"

And yet, for all its playfulness, there's an odd earnestness underneath. The exposure of the lovers, including Theo and Polly Moon, to the influence of sublunary light and fairy love juice creates an opportunity for marital, and pre-marital, counseling. Twenty-six years earlier, Theo and Polly had need of Oberon's magic to overcome some pre-wedding jitters. Now, after something of a relapse, Theo and Polly have a conversation about the dangers of patriarchal anger lurking beneath the sharp Athenian law. The lovers themselves, after they awake, have a modest therapy session as they try to understand their dreams. For Helena (Michelle Bonnard), those dreams are particularly disturbing, as she is acutely aware that James Demetrius (William Ash) is her own and not her own. Is this Shakespeare improved, or Shakespeare improv, or what?

Christine Edzard's The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream evokes countless "straight" productions of Shakespeare's play, both community theater productions and such film versions as the William Dieterle-Max Reinhardt production, all of which use child actors in ways that sentimentalize and make "safe" the darker elements of the play, in what Hattaway describes as "the text's transgressions of the boundaries between erotic fantasy and the nightmare of power misused" (94). In the case of the 1935 film, the children, at least those in Titania's train, mitigate disturbing images of power that the film elsewhere deliberately employs, such as in the night-mare Oberon rides. In Edzard's film, by contrast, that power resides in the children themselves, as they wrestle the performance away from authoritarian gatekeepers of Shakespearean meaning, whether traditional Shakespearean actors such as Derek Jacobi or the formal and spatial enforcements of proscenium staging. Uncertain at first, the children make the play their own by re-discovering precisely those aspects of imaginative performance that so baffled both the mechanicals and their courtly audience: casting, space, language, and community.

There are two casts for The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream, each cast somewhat volatile, though in quite different ways. The first, of course, is the puppet show, starring Derek Jacobi and Samantha Bond. Although we see neither of these sometime RSC actors, we hear their voices ventriloquized through the mouths of puppets. There are two interesting effects of this strategy. First, because we do not see Jacobi and Bond but hear their stentorian voices, the effect is that those voices become detached from either character or actor, and instead present themselves as the disembodied voices of bardic authority. The second effect of the adult casting is precisely the opposite. Because Jacobi's puppet is carved and painted in a way that comically catches one of the actor's most "classic" Jacobi expressions--an aristocratic surprise touched by scorn--the unseen Jacobi's authoritative voice devolves into caricature, as that voice appears to emerge from the puppet's stylized face. Jacobi's wonderfully musical voice becomes, well, wooden. These "authentic" actors are further weakened as the puppets representing the on-stage lovers lose both their voices and their bodies to the children. Once the children playing Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius assume their voices, both as actors and as characters, the official puppet versions of Shakespeare's characters are reduced to mute supernumeraries.

The real stars are the gate crashers. This second cast (and crew) consists of the children, a group of 360 students "from local primary schools, many of whom had no formal acting experience" (Burnett 167). The students, from eight to twelve years old, represent a world far from Stratford-upon-Avon or even London's West End. They constitute a variety of Southwark voices, but they're far from the neighboring world of the Globe Theatre. Comprised of a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, these children make up both the cast and the crew of the play (Crowl 163). Their Shakespearean education, Crowl points out, consisted of six months of shooting followed by another four months in post production (163). In a May 2001 interview, Edzard recalled that "[s]ome of them couldn't even read" (qtd. in Crowl 163).

Conflicting notions of space are central to Edzard's film, whether she is exploring the political geography inside the theater or the alternating conceptions of theatrical and cinematic space on either side of its walls. The political architecture announces itself immediately. A group of young students of multiple races and ethnicities trudges uniformly into the alien space of the theater with the enthusiasm of children enduring something that will be "good for them." We hear the rustle of pre-adolescent adjustments as the orchestra warms up. We are in a formal, proscenium-style puppet theater "that might have been designed by Inigo Jones" (Crowl 163). Over the student audience's vocal static, the crisp, utterly professional voices of Derek Jacobi and Samantha Bond can be heard but their source not seen, as they begin the language of the play. The struggle between these two antagonistic groups of actors is carried out in terms of a clash of theatrical conventions. Ignoring the restless audience, the actor-puppets re-direct their voices inward toward one another, trying to take back the play by using the naturalistic and representational conventions of acting in order to marginalize the insurrectionist and presentational theatrical voices of the young students.

Indeed, the tension between the cinematic and theatrical elements of production mirrors the social contestation of space waged between the professional actors and the students. Once it has dollied itself into the film's opening theater scene, the camera is never quite sure where to position itself, how to define an appropriate locus for itself and the point of view such a locus might command. At first the camera is primarily interested in the young audience and its multiple responses to the puppet show. But once Jacobi's voice establishes itself as the performance's center, the camera adjusts its position, moving to the rear of the audience and focusing on the stage, thereby creating a kind of cinematic proscenium picture frame.

That spatial orthodoxy is quickly challenged. As Jacobi's puppet instructs the puppet Hermia of the authority of her father's "voice," a young girl (Jamie Peachey) from the audience stands up and begins to speak Hermia's lines, "I would my father looked but with my eyes." A stunned Jacobi speaks Theseus's rejoinder not to the Hermia puppet on stage but to the yet unnamed girl in the audience, as if he were reproving a child's--or an audience member's--bad manners. But the girl, who now has become Hermia through the very language she has appropriated, continues her lines to the applause of her peers. A boy (Danny Bishop) stands up to say Lysander's lines. Then Demetrius (John Heyfron) speaks. The wooden puppets look at one another in a state of wooden shock. Where is the stage? Our new Hermia's sudden vocal presence is both a breach of theater etiquette and a recovery of theatrical fife. Samuel Crowl observes that "[i]t is particularly apt that the child speaking as Hermia is the first to rise and speak, because it is Hermia's resistance to the patriarchal order that provides the play with its organizing energy, and Hermia, when all the lovers' vulnerabilities are exposed in the woods, is the one most self-conscious about her stature and wounded about being regarded as a 'puppet'" (164). Fortunately, the scene ends, not a moment too soon for Jacobi and Bond, and the proscenium stage curtains close.

Yet on the audience side of the curtain, the performance continues. It is, in fact, both a performance and a rehearsal, as the children attempt to try on Shakespeare's language and their own invented characters, both of which fit comfortably and awkwardly on these actors, like untucked school uniforms. As many of the audience wander out of the theater during the interval, Hermia and Lysander both rehearse and perform their rocky "course of true love" set-piece, much as Shakespeare's own fellow actors might have done with their "parts." Moreover, Lysander clearly enjoys the sudden, rhetorical turns of expression that choreograph the equally sudden twists and turns of true love. He begins each couplet by jumping to a new position on the stage as he speaks his lines. Is Lysander imitating Peter Hall's jump cuts--a camera strategy Edzard herself uses elsewhere in this film? One jump cut later and we are in Helena's bedroom. She lies down on her soft sheep-pillow, mulling about "how happy some o'er other some can be," when inspiration hits. She pulls up her telephone and punches Demetrius's number with determined energy.

The alternating modes of presentation in this performance, film and theater, thrust and proscenium, seem to release the childrens' voices. There's a sense of excitement, wonder, power as these children find a space for themselves in Shakespeare's language. It's something like the incremental possession of Shakespeare's words we can hear in The Hobart Shakespeareans, or My Shakespeare (without, of course, those odd consultations with Baz Luhrmann). (1) Hermia catches fire at Helena's "you puppet you," and Helena finds her own moment. Reminding Hermia of their double-cherry union, Helena suddenly whips from some secret place a photographic memento of the two of them, as proof. Later in that scene Hermia, reproving Helena for plotting with men, hits the word "men" with all her might. Bottom (Oliver Szczypka) is a joyful ham, raising his hand like the excited student he is, as he hears the promise of each part Quince (Daniel Rouse) calls out. In his prologue, Snout's Wall (Jack Nottage) speaks such phrases as "very secretly" and "are to whisper" in a playful stage whisper. Even the slow-of-study Lion creates quite an uproar on stage as he works the audience, cheerfully growling to each child in the crowd who catches his eye.

The changing settings of Edzard's film take us from the opening scenes that occur in a theater, to footage of the "real" space of the church garden outside, then to what seems a naturalistic woodland set but in fact takes place "in the Sands Film studio, in a space measuring less than fifty by twenty-five feet" (Crowl 163). Finally, at the end of the film, we return to the theater, now converted into a thrust stage for the play within the play. Such a movement creates its own "green world," a place apart where conventions of theater and film must negotiate for themselves an uneasy local habitation, just as the codes of Athens and woods, wakefulness and dream, law and love must also discover in that green world an inclusive social space, validated by both cinematic eye and theatrical ear. And this negotiation must finally succeed in that moment in the play-film where codes are most uncertain, the production of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Something else happens to the voices of these actors, especially in the cinematic woods. Freed from the authoritarian enforcements of the puppet theater, these middle scenes provide an opportunity to experiment, to play, with different strategies of cinematic and theatrical collaboration. These scenes reveal a surprising collaboration of children's voices. Anonymous fairies sometimes echo, sometimes appropriate, the lines of the titled characters. Oberon's lines, recalling Titania's gift of the changeling child, are echoed. Puck mimics the voices of Lysander and Demetrius, and not just in the befogged woods. When the lovers are preparing to sleep, or when they awaken into passion, their rationalized "explanations" are shared by fairies. Those echoing words often have a parodic feel since they mischievously amplify the central tropes of young manly posturing. Lysander's assured "love takes the meaning in love's conference," for example, is echoed by a fairy, as is the improbable language of his chastity: "two bosoms and a single troth." Demetrius's rationalization of his sudden drowsiness--"So sorrow's heaviness doth heavier grow / For debt that bankrupt sleep doth sorrow owe"--is also echoed, as are some of the rhetorical highlights of Hermia's and Helena's (Jessica Fowler) moral outrage. But the sharing of lines has other effects far from parodic. The sounds at times create a woodland chorus. At times they help define the woods as a place where corrupted words and their meanings reverberate. Finally, these echoing lines also help establish a bond among the actors, a kind of support system that actors often feel in rehearsal as well as in performance, as these separate children tentatively feel their way towards ensemble, a community of voices.

Again, this vocal community concurs with a re-negotiation of theatrical and cinematic space, a kind of parted vision, where everything seems double. As the children prepare to re-enter the theater, we see the fairies play in the remnants of Puck's magic fog. Suddenly, as we hear Derek Jacobi's strong off-screen voice, celebrating, of all things, "the musical confusion / Of hounds and echoes in conjunction," the fairies scatter. The camera then cuts to the lovers and Bottom, asleep in the woods and the theater. Here space and time converge. We hear Jacobi's questions to the awakening lovers, but the camera takes in only the lovers. We never see the puppets in the woods even as the lovers respond to Theseus's and Egeus's questions. This tactic, of course, solves a logistical problem for these cinematic woods. You can never bring in a puppet! But at the same time, Edzard's tactic reinforces the irony of these classical puppet-actors, the embodiment of Shakespearean authority, imprisoned within their own proscenium stage. As the lovers and the puppets continue to speak, the camera cuts to the theater. Bottom, the lovers, and Theseus all speak at once about dreams in a kind of tangled chain of language. There are some fine moments in this musical discord. As Bottom, sitting in the midst of the theater, wisely and shrewdly announces to the audience that "man is but an ass if he go about to explain this dream," we hear Egeus's litigious exegesis: "Enough, enough, my lord; you have enough--/ I beg the law, the law upon his head!"

The lovers' triumphant return to the very theatrical space from which they were exiled is a great pleasure to watch and hear. As Theseus confidently discloses to Hippolyta that lunatics, lovers, and poets "[a]re of imagination all compact" (5.1.8-9), the camera abandons Jacobi and, instead, is drawn into the tiring house, where, as we continue to listen to Derek Jacobi, we see these imaginative young mechanicals rehearsing their lines, giving their wardrobes a final check. Bottom's words in particular echo in conjunction with Jacobi's. A few lines later, when Philostrate dismisses these amateurs who "never labored in their minds till now," the camera again shifts its attention to Bottom and company, still at work polishing their lines, building energy, waiting at the edge of the tiring room. The readiness is all.

The play, as well as its music and its space, now belongs to the children. As Jacobi and Bond continue their exchanges, we hear the excited murmur of entering children. The children seat themselves with their backs to the proscenium stage, having cleared away their own thrust stage. The puppets have no choice but to sit and watch. In a world of color and confidence the play begins. Peter Quince's Prologue enters with a flourish, shaking hands--a real celebrity now--with every audience member he sees as he works his way toward his marks. At the end of the speech, the audience claps and cheers enthusiastically, heedless of the puppets' witty commentary. There's great color in the actors' costumes, and greater plumage. Flute (David Joyce) gives one last look at his compact mirror, then takes the stage. Bottom enters with red cape and a splendid crown, sporting a long feather in his cap, a faint remembrance of his fair large ears. When Bottom thanks the courteous Wall, everyone cheers.

There's an animated connection here both among the actors and between actors and audience. When Bottom laments, "O wherefore, Nature, didst thou lions frame?" the camera looks to the balconies, where audiences stand in rapt attention. Bottom, sure of his actorly self, adjusts his delivery to include them. Only the aristocratic puppets, along with their mockery, are marginalized. This is the only production of A Midsummer Night's Dream I've ever seen where Bottom's breaking of character to "instruct" Theseus on how the play will "fall pat as I told you" creates a moment that belongs entirely, and approvingly, to Bottom. There is great applause as Peter Quince and Snug the Joiner share the speech inviting either an epilogue or a Bergomask. As the fairies together "bless this place," we discover that the theater has become, once again, an empty space. But it is a space now filled with applause and music and memory. As the credits roll, one begins to sense just how extensive this project was, just how many students were enlisted to form this collaboration, this surprising community. Except, of course, for the Arts Council of England, whose lack of support is noted in the credits, everyone seemed to have a voice in this wondrous musical discord, such sweet thunder.

It's always dangerous to think of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream or Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet (emphasis added), as Michael Hoffman or Baz Luhrmann seem to invite us to do, unless we remember that, deferences to "authorship" aside, both these directors then proceeded to re-imagine these plays as simultaneously "Shakespearean" and "Hoffmanesque" or "Luhrmannic." Such are the courtesies of an upstart crow, who must praise the uniqueness of an "author's" work, or il miglior fabbro who wrote it, before reconstituting that work as his own, at least in part. The Fraiman/Bowker A Midsummer Night's Dream and Christine Edzard's The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream are both wonderfully imaginative, even "Shakespearean," poachers. The first re-envisions A Midsummer Night's Dream in a landscape of postmodern mock Bardolatry: a Shakespearean theme park. Christine Edzard's The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream, as its title suggests, presents an even bolder challenge, wrestling the play away from Shakespearean authorities, perhaps even from Shakespeare, and re-situating the work within the young and fertile imaginations of eight- to twelve-year-old children. As Samuel Crowl puts it, Edzard "literally embod[ies] Shakespeare's fantasy in the voices and bodies of children" (163). Given such unabashedly imaginative minds, how easy is a bush supposed a bear?

And yet the effect of all this thievery is finally to celebrate Shakespeare's play as well as the innumerable collaborative texts that Shakespeare's dream has animated. It is no small irony that one of the few Shakespearean plays without a specific source has given life to such a plenitude of adaptations. Indeed, we might remember that ira Midsummer Night's Dream is in fact a play "not of an age but for all time," it is because this play, like every "Shakespeare" play, is both his own, and not his own. We might remember that in the Christine Edzard version of Shakespeare's Dream, the figure who most represents Shakespearean authority, Derek Jacobi, is a devout Oxfordian.

Works Cited

Branagh, Kenneth, dir. Much Ado About Nothing. Castle Rock Entertainment. 1996.

Burnett, Mark Thornton. "'Fancy's Images': Reinventing Shakespeare in Christine Edzard's The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream." Literature Film Quarterly 30 (2002): 166-70.

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare at the Cineplex: The Kenneth Branagh Era. Athens: Ohio UP, 2003.

Dieterle, William, and Max Reinhardt, dir. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Warner Brothers, 1935.

Edzard, Christine, dir. The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream. Sands Films, 2001.

Fraiman, Ed, dir. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare Retold. Acorn Video, 2006.

Hall, Peter, dir. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Filmways Pictures, 1968.

Hattaway, Michael. "The Comedies on Film." The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film. Ed. Russell Jackson. New York: Cambridge UP, 2000. 85-98.

Hoffman, Michael, dir. William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Twentieth Century Fox, 1999.

Luhrmann, Baz. William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. Special Edition. Twentieth Century Fox, 1997.

Stuart, Mel, dir. The Hobart Shakespeareans. Stuart Productions, 2005.

Waldman, Michael, dir. My Shakespeare." Romeo & Juliet for a New Generation, with Baz Luhrmann. PBS, 2006.

JOHN R. FORD

Delta State University

Notes

(1) The Hobart Shakespeareans is a documentary about a gifted teacher, Rafe Esquith, and his fifth grade students at Hobart, a Los Angeles public school. We watch these students as they evolve from Shakespearean illiteracy to an internalized possession of that language. The documentary concludes with a surprisingly clear and powerful performance of Hamlet. My Shakespeare, also a documentary, focuses on a first-time director, Paterson Joseph, as he leads his troupe of similarly inexperienced actors through turbulent rehearsals in the impoverished and dangerous neighborhood of Harlesden, London. The struggling actors and director become a company that eventually mounts a passionate performance of Romeo and Juliet presented at RADA's theatre in London before a full house. While both documentaries purport to celebrate the independent theatrical authority of actors and their directors, nonetheless My Shakespeare's achievement is somewhat undercut by the odd authoritarian presence of Baz Luhrmann sitting by his phone half a world away in Sydney, Australia. During moments of directorial crisis, Paterson Joseph telephones Luhrmann for advice, which Luhrmann freely and expansively gives.
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Title Annotation:Shakespeare on Screen
Author:Ford, John R.
Publication:Shakespeare Bulletin
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:5301
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