Russell T Davies’ final ten-minute montage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the best thing he has ever written – according to the man himself.
The former Doctor Who showrunner, who penned some of the most memorable moments in the sci-fi series, told RadioTimes.com that the joyous carnival at the end of his Shakespeare adaptation is his “favourite” example of his work.
“The last ten minutes are the favourite thing I have ever done,” he said. “I do play with the play in the last ten minutes.”
That is something of an understatement.
In Davies’ vision King Theseus (John Hannah) is killed off – a twist absent from Shakespeare’s original – with the fairies from the woodland scenes earlier invading the mortal world in the drama’s final moments. The words of the play performed by Bottom and his friends are deployed to lament the passing of Theseus who is portrayed as a fascist dictator imprisoning his bride Hippolyta [Eleanor Matsuura].
In another Davies twist, fairy Queen Titania exchanges a passionate kiss with the newly freed Hippolyta – the Queen of the Amazons who sprouts butterfly wings and soars into the air.
None of these moments are in the original play, but they were stoutly defended by Davies.
“I think in the last ten minutes I have done something that I haven’t seen done before.
“It’s my take on the ending. Nothing’s changed but a lot’s been added. But it’s still completely faithful to the text.
“I have imagined doing this for decades. I have the last scene in a file on my computer at home. I have probably watched it 100 times. When I have five minutes off I just think ‘I’ll watch this’. And off it goes. I love it. I’m thrilled with it. I am properly thrilled with it.
“For me it is a question of problem solving. I have seen 27 productions and screen versions [of A Midsummer Night’s Dream]. There are ways within the text of doing things better. Theseus can be boring, let’s be honest. Who wants to play Theseus? But you will in this version. He is great. He has a great ending.
“Every reimagining has been done on [the play], every twist and reimagining. There might be a production in Skegness that has done the same thing it’s just that I have never seen it.”
Davies added that the bold approach fitted in with the idea of a vibrant Shakespeare from Doctor Who. Dean Lennox Kelly played the Bard in The Shakespeare Code, an episode penned by Davies for David Tennant’s Doctor in 2007.
“We did him as a rock star. He was popular in his day and he worked in a rowdy theatre and they were yelling out and he was doing great big sex jokes and fart jokes. He could hold a stage that man.
“We tend to see him with a quill looking very poncey and I like that rock star approach. We had him writing in a pub with his mates which was very, very true to what happened.”