Radio Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Radio 3

“My ear is much enamoured of your note”

I’m nothing if not predictable, so despite having been distinctly underwhelmed by the Shakespeare on 3 productions and sworn off the Bard on radio, the replay of this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Radio 3 was irresistible to me as I just could not resist the spectacular cast assembled.

I’d been warned in advance that Lesley Sharp didn’t sound like herself in this as Titania and it’s true, but the precisely mannered intonation she adopts works really well here and made me long to see her back on stage. Toby Stephens was serviceable as Oberon but I did enjoy Freddie Fox’s impish Puck. And as the troublesome lovers, Joseph Timms and Ferdinand Kingsley, and Emerald O’Hanrahan and Anna Madeley were all nicely characterful.

But truth be told, even this cast of luminaries couldn’t convince that Shakespeare has a natural home on the radio. This production was apparently filmed on location in a Sussex woodland but to be honestly, I couldn’t have told you that nor could I really see what it actually added. And the way the text has been edited through a little too much focus onto the Rude Mechanicals at the end, I think they had nearly half an hour to get through Pyramus and Thisbe. Roger Allam’s Bottom and Sam Alexander’s Flute were really rather good, but the interjections from the newly married nobles didn’t work as well as they should in the purely aural context.

So probably worth a listen on a quiet afternoon, but I don’t think I’d recommend going out of your way for this.

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