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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Noel Coward Theatre – Review

William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Grandage
★★★★★ 

Pros: A lavish, contemporary, comical production with an outstanding cast. The relatable interpretation succeeded in bringing this play full of fairies and spells to a wide and appreciative audience.

Cons: I’m grasping at straws, but Padraic Delaney as Oberon/Theseus is a little less commanding than I expected from the king of the fairies/Duke of Athens.

Our Verdict: Grandage’s interpretation proves the timelessnes of Shakespeare’s writing. Don’t be put off if you are not a fan of the Bard – I cannot expound the virtues of this enthralling play enough. This production is genius!

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

I was a little dubious as I sat in my seat at the grand Noel Coward Theatre. I’m a massive Shakespeare fan, and having seen a wonderfully magical production of A Midsummer Night Dream at the Globe in the summer, I was doubtful that a big West End production could do this intricate tale justice. By the interval all reservations were dispelled as this is such a fantastic interpretation! Michael Grandage’s version makes this play digestible and relevant. In this production, the Greek Dukedom is a privileged upper class realm and the fairies are presented as a hedonist hippy commune. These two worlds co-exist on the magical moonlit stage with ease and complete conviction. I absolutely loved it.

The strength lies in the fresh and contemporary delivery of the five-hundred-year-old dialogue and in the excellent staging and direction. The cast are fantastic in their roles, bringing the ancient Greek characters bang into the moment. Every feeling, thought, and interaction is credible and understandable, even though the prose is antiquated. There is so much comedy and lots of laughter; the audience is engaged from the outset and kept on an exuberant high throughout the evening.

David Walliams and Sheridan Smith take top billing and are indeed the stars of the show. Walliams is hilarious as Bottom, his signature camp inflection and precisely perfect comic timing take the role to another level. Smith is an extraordinarily talented actress. She brings both wanton abandon to Titania, and, in contrast, a prim, contained upper class air to Hypollyta. Smith and Walliams only just manage to shine in an outstanding cast. Sam Swainsbury and Stephano Braschi, as Lysander and Demitrius, are both debonair and comically naïve as their feelings (and their clothing) are stripped bare. The two are perfect foils for their love interests and the rapport between them is so entertaining I could have watched them all night!

Similarly, Susannah Fielding and Katherine Kingsley are perfect as Hermia and Helena. I think Fielding is particularly impressive at imparting the desperation of Helena’s pursuit of Demitrius. Her comical obsession perfectly sets off Fielding’s self-assured and feisty Hermia. The interplay between the four bewitched young lovers is superb–I was laughing so much my face ached! I also love Gavin Fowler’s disrespectful and sensuous Puck, a step away from a fairylike presentation but magical nonetheless. Alex Large as Thisbe is brilliant, particularly considering he shares the stage with Walliams, who is in his comic element. There is not one less-than-excellent performance in this production, although Padraic Delaney’s as Oberon/Theseus is not as commanding and kingly as I have come to expect from this role.

I have not got enough words here to applaud this first class production enough or to outline the magical storyline. If you don’t know A Midsummer Night’s Dream , or you have seen it before and loved it, grab a ticket and don’t miss this fantastic production.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Noel Coward Theatre until 16th November 2013. 
Box office: 0844 482 5140 or book on line at http://www.bestoftheatre.co.uk/922-a-midsummer-night-s-dream-tickets.

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