This production directed by Peter Brook and featuring Frances de la Tour and Ben Kingsley was immensely influential.

Brook approached the play with deliberate radicalism, taking up the baton from Granville-Barker almost 60 years earlier who innovatively presented the play in London on an apron stage with minimal set.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1970: Helena grapples with an unwilling Demetrius, Act 2 Scene 1.
© RSC – Image Licensing

The set consisted of a brilliantly-lit white box which replaced the traditional Dreamset design of pretty forest and classical Athenian court. The actors wore bright silks and performed circus skills such as plate-spinning and trapeze-swinging, inspired by Chinese acrobats.

By doubling the roles of Oberon and Theseus and those of Titania and Hippolyta (played by Alan Howard and Sara Kestelman), Brook made it clear that the Fairy King and Queen were the alter egos of the mortal rulers. In this way, Brook suggested that the conflicts and erotic adventures of the nocturnal wood were the uncontrollable eruption of subconscious fears and desires.


First Impressions: A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1970
John Barber, The Daily Telegraph, quoted in The Independent, 1 February 2008

Top 5 Shakespeare productions in 50 years at the RSC
Theo Bosanquet, WhatsOnStage, 19 April 2011


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