David Tennant Was Going To Direct RTD’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant was set to direct Russell T. Davies’ adaptation of the much-loved Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Richard Wilson, who plays Starveling, one of the Rude Mechanicals (who are acting out the so-called “play within a play”), explains why he took on the role:

“It was the fact that Russell had written it – and David Tennant was going to direct it at one time and so I did it as a favour to him, because I know him very well.”

A little while back, the Internet was abuzz with an image of Tennant meeting with Davies in Cardiff, so it seems likely this is what that meeting was about. It’s a shame he didn’t get to direct the 90-minute show as he’s known to be an expert on the Bard and has appeared in numerous plays by Shakespeare, notably Hamlet and Richard II. He did, nonetheless, contribute to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including a gag for Bernard Cribbins’ character, Snout.

Directing duties, instead, went to another David: Kerr has previously directed such series as Inside No. 9, Fresh Meat, and Judge John Deed.

Wilson calls RTD’s adaptation “very accessible”, and admits:

“There are certain Shakespeare plays I’ve seen many times and I’m still not quite sure what they’re about. Sometimes I think it’s my lack of university education that keeps me out from him – which is a terrible thing to say, because it sounds as if I’m saying you need a university degree to understand him. I know that a lot of children respond to him. But I have problems…”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which also stars Matt Lucas (The Husbands of River Song), Colin McFarlane (Under the Lake/ Before the Flood), and John Hannah (A Touch of Cloth),  is on BBC1 or you can catch up on iPlayer.

  • TheLazyWomble

    There is a lot to be admired about the adaptation as aired. But it is very far from perfect. I found the portrayal of Theseus stupendously annoying. The four lovers were bot amazing. Making Titania and Hippolyta lovers was erm… irritating.
    On the plus side Puck, Snout and Cobweb were brilliant. The mechanicals and the fairies were good. Bottom was… Bottom but not hideous.
    A very good as opposed to an excellent adaptation.
    I have no idea whether Tennant directing it would have improved it.

  • Edward Delingford

    It wasn’t a very good adaptation but it had enough colour and spectacle to paper over the lack of new ideas. The overhyping by the usual RTD Roath Lock cheerleaders at previews made it sound like he was going to give us something novel and lifechanging. Fine for what it was, but the huge liberties with the text were annoying for the most part, particularly the framing of Theseus. The gender bending stuff was fine and practically mandatory nowadays so hardly shocking or daring. Nice to see Bernard Cribbins and Richard Wilson. Matt Lucas wasn’t as awful as feared and Maxine Peake was good. The lovers were nicely played with Helena the standout – it is the best part after all. The sound balancing was horendous and took me back to the worst days of RTD’s Who where you couldn’t hear yourself think for the bombastic thundering of the music. Much too overwrought in places in a typically RTD way as well. Those familiar with the text or Shakespeare afficienados are going to hate this but it wasn’t made for them, rather a big, loud, bright mishmash which is more about Davies than Shakespeare. It can be enjoyed on those terms alone.

    Since RTD was on set constantly, I doubt the director had any say in choices in how the play was presented, so if Tennant had been there, I doubt he would have been able to put any stamp on it. A shame for his CV though and might have been a new way of picking up his flagging career. It would have been a great safe way to make his directing debut surrounded by supportive mates. I gather the latest unexpected stork visit in the Tennant family was the reason for not being able to do this in the end even though he had been the original choice by RTD and they had planned to do it together well in advance (Tennant and his wife really must find out how this keeps happening!). Apparently Tennant and Davies went on a boys own holiday together for a week or so after his return from the US last year (and popped in to say hello to Peter Cap and crew) so got to discuss some ideas even if he couldn’t go ahead due to the call of nappies and sleepless nights yet again. Fair enough too. Family should take precedence over career, so good on him for passing over this fantastic opportunity for very worthwhile reasons.

  • Dr. Moo

    I thoroughly enjoyed it; Shakespeare how it should be done! Some changes yes, but when the end product is enjoyable as that was, who cares?

  • Ranger

    Complete and utter tosh. It’s not my favourite Shakespeare play by a long way, but the unnecessary changes and vandalising of the play is inexcusable. RTD thinks he knows better than Shakespeare what works dramatically, does he? After all, Shakespeare’s work has only lasted 400 years, so obviously he knew nothing. RTD should be so lucky. Matt Lucas can’t act, full stop. He should stop now and spare everyone. Poor old Sir Bernard, he did his best.

    I hate this dumbing down of everything mentality we have now. The play is accessible enough already, it doesn’t need to be changed to make it more accessible, and as for the constant LGBT propaganda that RTD pushes ad nauseum! Don’t get me wrong – I am deeply involved with LGBT rights and changing attitudes, but this kind of thing only alienates further the people it is trying so hard to win over. LGBT people don’t need to try and change historical straight culture – they have a rich and varied culture of their own that they should be trying to disseminate wider and ensuring that our future culture truly reflects our present LGBT and ethnic population. What RTD did is insulting to the LGBT community – it implies that they cannot be interested in Shakespeare (or anything else) unless it is changed to include a LGBT relationship – this last comment comes from a gay friend of mine, who I discussed the programme with this morning – he wasn’t at all happy with the changes.

    • Edward Delingford

      I agree that it was very poor indeed but hardly unexpected from someone with an ego the size of RTD who no doubt thought he was improving Shakespeare in the same way he thought he was improving Who when he took over. I think the only way to enjoy it was simply to put out of your mind that it had any true DNA linked to Shakespeare but was more a ham fisted homage with a big emphasis on the ham. In view of the ratings, Tennant must now be glad he dodged a bullet in not being associated more closely with this massive flop. Hooray for the unexpected pitter patter of tiny feet.

      The BBC must be wondering how they let RTD get away with this and no doubt questions will be asked of the BBC1 program commissioners while the DM are revelling in the dreadful ratings for the Beeb and overwhelmingly unfavourable response on social media. The gender fluidity aspects didn’t worry me – it’s RTD so you expect some tokenism he can boast about as being ground breaking, but I do see your point about his need to assume he is some great champion of diversity. Steven Moffat did a thousand times more to make Who more inclusive than RTD ever did and didn’t see the need to bang on about it endlessly the way RTD did, because why would he need to, when it is common sense to cast and create characters to reflect who we all are.

      I can’t say I loved it and the liberties with the text were annoying, but I can’t say it was a total disaster. I thought it was diverting enough and some of the actors acquitted themselves well. Poor old Rusty though must be gutted that the nation just couldn’t give a rats about HIS Dream.

    • bar

      Having read everyone’s comments here I decided to have a look at it myself. hmm. Actually have to disagree about Matt Lucas – I thought he did more range than usual. And you can’t help but like Kate Kennedy. But anything truly Shakespeare was well lost under FAR TOO LOUD MUSIC and layers of Disneyfication – the fireworks over the castle, the butterfly wings, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Bottom had been turned onto Donkey from Shrek. Yes, that would have been fitting. Maybe the DVD will come with a karaoke extra.