Puck on Film

by Allen W. Wright

A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013)

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole (with Robin Lough)
Shakespeare's Globe / Globe On Screen

Shakespeare's Globe: A MIdsummer Night's Dream

From the theatre of Shakespeare (more or less)

The original Globe Theatre where most of Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed burned to the ground in June 1613. But in 1997, a recreation of this Elizabethan theatre opened up 750 feet from the original’s site on the south bank of London. Since then, many have stood as “groundlings” to watch plays performed in a somewhat traditional manner.

Preview performances for this version of the Dream began on May 24, 2013 with an official opening of May 30, 2013 and ran to October 12 that year. A recorded version of this production was shown at movie cinemas as part of the Globe On Screen’s 2014 season. While theatres were closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, this production was released free on YouTube on Monday June 15, 2020 for a two-week run. 

Theseus subdues Hippolyta in the Dream at Shakespeare's Globe

A Traditional Dream?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is famous for having a play-within-play when “Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,/ Which never labour'd in their minds till now,” put on a decidedly amateur play to celebrate the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. The play ends with a bergamask dance.

Director Dominic Dromgoole and choreographer Sian Williams, however, have threaded many masks and dances throughout the show.

The show opens with a silent re-enactment of Theseus’s defeat of the Amazons, when he wooed Hippolyta by doing her injuries.

Peter Quince and amateur acting troupe are also introduced through dance. And when the fairies come on stage, they also perform a ritual dance.

It feels, rightly or wrongly, like the kind of entertainments we might see in Shakespeare’s own day. The costuming certainly harks back to the Elizabethan period, as the Athenian soldiers wear crested helmets on their head and ruff around their necks.  

It's certainly a more traditional version of the Dream that the effects laden version offered by Julie Taymor later that year or by the 1999 film set in late-19th century Italy or the 2019 Bridge Theatre / National Theatre Live production inspired by The Handmaid's Tale. (Shakespeare's Globe has been home to more unusual productions of the play with varying results.) But to view this solely as traditional is to deny Dromgoole his own inventiveness.

The rude mechanicals production in the 2013 Dream at the Globe

Comedy Tonight

One of Dromgoole’s innovations is to greatly expand the mechanicals’ play with a number of slapstick gags. Trousers are dropped at inappropriate moments. The wall’s cranny is an a private place. And Wall nearly knocks his fellow actors off the stage.

Some versions of the Dream end with either Bottom or Flute turning into a good actor for one brief shiny moment. Not here. There’s nothing portentous or polite about this gang.

Oh, and there’s a meta gag in the set design. the hard-handed men who work in Athens build (and continue to repair during the performance) a small stage to perform their show. it’s a parody of the Globe’s own stage.

Not that these rude mechanicals are particularly hard-handed.

Pearce Quigley as Nick Bottom

Bottom's Up

Pearce Quigley is a fantastic Bottom. He forgoes the deeper voiced bluster, and goes for a higher, nasally camp pitch. These choices really emphasize the diva like quality to Bottom, and the director extends comedic moments of Bottom walking off in a peevish fit.

Oberon and the fairies dance

The Fairies

This production presents fairies that belong less to the vegetation of the forest and more to the Wild Hunt. The dominant colour in this production is not a verdant green, but the brown of leather. When Oberon first appears, and in the show's closing moments, he wears a stag-head -- much like the figure of Herne the Hunter from the Shakespeare play The Merry Wives of Windsor (and the TV series Robin of Sherwood.)

Several members of Oberon and Titania's fairy bands wear animal masks. It helps conceal that some of the fairies play other roles in the show. But perhaps it gives an added dimension to Titania falling in love with the transformed Bottom. With his ass-head, he looks like the ideal fairy.

Titania and Bottom in the 2013 Dream from Shakespeare's Globe

Queen of the Fairies and of the Amazons

As is common with many stage productions of the Dream, the 2013 production from Shakespeare’s Globe doubles up many of the roles.

Michelle Terry plays both Hippolyta and Titania. Her Titania may be more emotive and raise her voice a bit more, but it’s Terry’s Hippolyta who seems most in control with her quiet defiance of Theseus.

And while John Light’s Theseus may not be the sweetest ruler in the world, he’s a lot calmer than Light’s Oberon.

Oberon moves to hit Titania ">

For Oberon is passing fell and wrath

The play’s text dictates that Oberon is enraged, and many actors have bellowed in rage as Oberon. But few have portrayed the rage as convincingly as John Light. Light’s Oberon doesn’t just shout. He howls.

Light’s face contorts in anger, and with his physicality, you do fear he might do Titania genuine harm.

But not everyone is target of Oberon’s ire. He seems more forgiving of Puck’s mistakes that Oberons in other productions have been. It’s almost as if there’s something between them.

Puck and Oberon in the 2013 Dream

Puck and Oberon

Matthew Tennyson’s Puck seems to sometimes gaze longingly at Oberon. And for his part, Oberon comes well within Puck’s personal space, Oberon is affectionate toward his servant.

Very affectionate.

Oberon kisses Puck in the 2013 Dream

When Puck tells his master that Titania has fallen in love with the transformed Bottom, Oberon excitedly grabs a rope hanging on the theatre’s pillars, swings towards Puck and plants a long and deep kiss on his lips.

Puck very much enjoys the experience. 

For this Puck, making Oberon smile might not be the side effect of his mischievous nature but the whole reason for it.

Tennyson returns to the Dream in the 2016 TV movie, but now as Lysander.

The Four Athenians struggle

Athenian Lovers

And speaking of Lysander, how do the Athenian lovers fair in this production. Most of them only seem to come alive when they’re the victim of Puck’s shenanigans. Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia tie themselves into a pretzel when they fight.

Of the four, Hermia played by Olivia Ross makes the strongest impression through out. She’s the strongest willed and the most engaging of the bunch.

Robin shall restore amends in the 2013 Dream

Concluding thoughts

This is a solid version of the Dream, if not the most transformative. The physicality of the cast is admirable whether it's the dances, the mechanicals' slapstick or Oberon's phsyicality.

And of course, there's the kiss between Oberon and Puck. The 2013 audience cheered with delight and I suspect all those who watch on the cinema screens or the Globe's streaming service will do the same.

You can buy this production on the Globe Player or watch as part of their service.

Where to go from here:


Cinema Broadcasts of Live Theatre

2014: Julie Taymor's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Julie Taymor with Kathryn Hunter as Puck

2019: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Bridge Theatre / National Theatre Live), directed by Nicholas Hytner with David Moorst as Puck

2021: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Stratford Festival / StratFest@Home), directed by Peter Pasyk with Trish Lindström as Puck



1935: A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle with Mickey Rooney as Puck

1968: A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Peter Hall with Ian Holm as Puck

1981: The BBC Television Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Elijah Moshinsky with Phil Daniels as Puck


1996: A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Adrian Noble with Barry Lynch as Puck

1999: William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Michael Hoffman with Stanley Tucci as Puck

Modern Versions

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: A Midsummer Night's Dream, written by Peter Bowker and directed by Ed Fraiman with Dean Lennox Kelly as Puck

2016: A Midsummer Night's Dream, adapted by Russell T. Davies and directed David Kerr with Hiran Abeysekera as Puck

2017: A Midsummer Night's Dream, written and directed by Casey Wilder Mott with Avan Jogia as Puck

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