There’s always a certain level of incongruity, as if looking into the uncanny valley, when watching a filmed version of a staged production. Maintaining the tactility of the theatre is often tough when simply recording. Often, theatre and cinema rarely meet in a positive communion. The exception to this rule is Julie Taymor’s recent staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014). Taymor excels in this staging, fusing her superlative eye for aesthetics and acrobatics with a knack for invigorating the thoroughly worn-in lines of the source material. What results is a treat for the eyes and the mind, where the cinema goer can still feel as immersed in the experience as if they were in the theatre.

At the edge of Athens lies a forest. Within this forest where there is all manner of magic and mischief (often at the hands of otherworldly spirits), where four young lovers pursue each other in zig-zagging patterns of earnestness and where one incredibly asinine laborer manages to beguile a queen. This is – arguably – one of Shakespeare’s most magical and comedic plays, a ripe source for Taymor to draw out the mysticism as she did when she took on The Tempest (2010). It’s certainly an omen of good things to come when the show begins with Puck (Kathryn Hunter) walk onstage, take repose on a bed and the bed then is pushed heaven-ward on growing branches and it soon swallowed up by a white sheet that has visions of a swirling blue clouds projected onto it.

Other genius moves in the realm of world-building are employed here, too. One of the most intriguing comes in conveying the vastness of the forest: As Helena (Mandi Masden) chases Demetrius (Zach Appelman), a troupe of black-clad performers holding large reeds sway about the stage, echoing the unwieldy movements of branches. Soon, they throw the reeds away and lie like logs on the ground as the actors hop over them. Its a small touch, but it keeps the movement fresh in an otherwise static environment. But building a world is Taymor’s forté. The minimal staging (a palette of grays and blues, complete with eerie music) that signals her magical world is inviting.

Even the costuming and performances of these spritely characters is eye-catching to a fault (in this version, Titania’s dress comes complete with fairy lights attached to highlight her face, giving her a lovely otherworldly glow). Its only when she must mix the mortal elements that things get a bit jarring. The Athenian actors wear period garb and speak their lines with serviceable intonations and gesticulations. The laborers, on the other hand, wear modern dress, acting more rough-around-the-edges and thus cause a clash of worlds. Something seems to be lost in translation when trying to bring life to these different sets of actors. While every cast member turns in an entertaining and adept performance (the most notable being Hunter, David Harewood and Tina Benko), they all seem to be drowned out by the technical wonders being produced onstage. In this way, the pieces never seem to quite fully fit together, leaving a little ringing in the ears as the off-key work being played out.

In the end, Taymor can’t quite escape her wild imagination, in both the best and the most unfortunate sort of way. Her version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream still captures the eye and keeps the viewer rapt but, in the closing moments, we too are left feeling like we’ve been shaken awake from a dream, possibly to remember or synthesize what we’ve just seen.