Young Helen Mirren and Judi Dench Let Their Hair Down in These Surprising Vintage Images

Shakespeare Dame Helen Mirren Embed 2
Photo: David Farrell

Think of Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench and imposing images likely come to mind—perhaps a British queen of some era (both have played Elizabeth I and Mirren has been Elizabeth II on stage and screen) or a tough woman in a man's world, like Mirren's assassin character, Victoria, in the Red movies or Dench's wily M, who issues orders to James Bond.

What's less likely to come to mind is uninhibited frolicking in the woods, while wearing mostly garlands of leaves, by the actresses. Nevertheless, that's what many of the sexy stills from the 1968 film Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream show. The images, unseen for years, are being displayed as part of a new exhibition called "Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants, and Tragedy" at Compton Verney, an 18th century country house and art gallery in Warwickshire, England.

Shakespeare Dame Helen Mirren Lead
David Farrell

Shot outdoors in the woods around Compton Verney and the first live-action film of the play in color, the movie, directed by Sir Peter Hall, was based a ground-breaking production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Mirren played Hermia while Diana Rigg, another distinguished theatrical dame (and now a regular on Game of Thrones as Olenna Tyrell, aka the Queen of Thorns), played her fellow nymph Helena (above). Dench, already getting into the regal groove, was Titania, Queen of the Fairies (below).

Shakespeare Dame Judi Dench Embed 1
David Farrell

The exhibition commemorates the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death (on April 23), and includes paintings, photography, and readings by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. "Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants, and Tragedy" runs at Compton Verney until June 19.

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