A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Noel Coward Theatre 85-88 St Martins Lane WC2N 4AU To 29 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5141.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 September.
Wildly entertaining evening’s Dream
David Walliams will probably have brought more people to the Noel Coward before the end of November than William Shakespeare. His fans won’t be disappointed. Nor should anyone be. His weaver Nick Bottom might look like a stereotyped hairdresser or art critic, but he’s not doing stereotypes and his elegant appearance and styled hair partner Bottom’s ebullience and over-confidence as an amateur theatrical.
It may go too far that he forgets a fellow thesp’s name – these amateurs are their own local society among more apparently powerful characters. But his repeated stroking of young Flute’s face and hissy-fits at producer Peter Quince suggests the happy Quince/Bottom household might not be for ever.
What is, though, in this world? The opening scene has none of the tensions other productions have found, but the tarnished grandeur of Theseus’ Athenian palace and its formal 1940s wear shifts markedly to its alter ego nocturnal fairy world. Here, a 1960s alternative rock community is unleashed along with smoked substances that not only release inner instincts in the donkeified Bottom but are brought into the ducal palace to help the final blessing.
Michael Grandage gives a highly active production, as well as one that’s fast-paced and concise, where love means sex; the four-letter word is in the script, the three-letter one in the playing. At least during the excitable time in the nocturnal forest. As with Sheridan Smith’s Titania, provocative postures, loose limbs and mane of hair contrasting the buttoned-up conformity of her Hippolyta. The contrast between day and night’s seen also in the way Padraic Delaney’s suited Theseus turns into a wild-man Oberon.
Or in the lovers, transforming from lively citizens to fighting bundles of youthful desire, the men stripped almost naked and when not fighting with branch-stubs for swords, wrestling as the women scrap alongside them. This is nature below the nurture as much as Bottom, even in Walliams’ precisely-mannered guise, is an ass beneath the preening.
Neither in word-count nor interpretation is this the complete Dream but it’s well-suited to the younger audiences the West End can nowadays, with the right coasting, attract.
Oberon/Theseus: Padraic Delaney.
Titania/Hippolyta: Sheridan Smith.
Egeus: Leo Wringer.
Hermia: Susannah Fielding.
Demetrius: Stefano Braschi.
Lysander: Sam Swainsbury.
Helena: Katherine Kingsley.
Peter Quince/Moth: Richard Dempsey.
Bottom: David Walliams.
Francis Flute/Mustardseed: Alex Large.
Tom Snout/Peaseblossom: Henry Everett.
Snuig/1st Fairy: Craig Vye.
Puck/Philostrate: Gavin Fowler.
Robin Starveling/Cobweb: Stefan Adegbola.
Thistleweed: Rachel Barry.
Gillyvor: Jack Brown.
Crab Apple: Lorna Stuart.
Director: Michael Grandage.
Designer/Costume: Christopher Oram.
Lighting: Paule Constable.
Sound/Composers: Ben & Max Ringham.
Movement: Ben Wright.
Voice/Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Music coach: Nigel Lilley.
Hair/Wigs: Richard Mawbey.
Associate director: Tara Robinson.
Associate designer/costume: Lee Newby.
Associate lighting: Rob Casey.
Associate sound: Joel Price.