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Review: Michael Grandage's trippy A Midsummer Night's Dream


Official production photo of Michael Grandage's A Midsummer Night's Dream taken by Johan Persson


Explaining away fairies and magic by means of hallucinogenic drug-taking is a good and satisfying modern spin on Shakespeare's fantastical comedy of love: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In Michael Grandage's production Titania (Sheridan Smith) and her fairy followers are dope-smoking hippies living in the woods. When the love quadrangle of Lysander (Sam Swainsbury), Hermia (Susannah Fielding), Demetrius (Stefano Braschi) and Helena (Katherine Kingsley) wander into the path of Titania's spurned lover Oberon (Padraic Delaney) it is tabs of acid they are unwittingly fed to induce amorous feelings. It also helpfully explains Bottom's (David Walliams) 'appearance' as an ass.

Such is the wildness, pace and colour of this production you'd believe the very air the characters breathed was intoxicating or at least the large spliff they were often to be seen passing around for a toke was real.

This is Shakespearean comedy done brazenly, oozing sex appeal as the young lovers attempt to seduce, undressing and sometimes tearing at each others clothing in the height of their passion. The fairies attire is a cross between the village people and hot, summer festival for which we have to thank  Michael Grandage and costume designer Christopher Oram. (Surely this must be the 'fittest' cast on stage currently, if not this year?)

The result is something frothy and frolicking. It's unlikely you'll remember the nuances of a particular speech and I was happy with nothing more than the gist of what was being said, content to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

David Walliams is superbly David Walliams which is just as it should be and, I imagine, the draw of his casting. He makes for a very entertaining Kenneth Williams-esque Bottom although I still think Oliver Chris' Bottom is the funniest I've seen.

Sheridan Smith is alway a joy to watch on stage and appeared to be having oodles of fun. But this is very much an ensemble piece and there wasn't a weak performance. I do, however, have to give special mention to my friend Henry Everett who plays Peaseblossom/Tom Snout with cool hippy/dippy aplomb.

If I have a slight quibble then it is with the lovers fight scene which did occasionally reach a hysterical, screeching pitch and wasn't pretty, just a teeny bit annoying. Otherwise I think William Shakespeare would approve, a production to entertain the masses and one I wish I'd seen when I was studying it.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is the fourth play in Michael Grandage's season at the Noel Coward Theatre and runs until 16 November.

PS Does anyone else think that Gavin Fowler who plays Puck looks quite a bit like Robert Sheehan (or have I just seen Mortal Instruments too many times?)

Oh and here's the latest trailer which gives you a flavour:



Easy peasy lemon squeasy Henry and Stefano were both in Peter and Alice with Mr W (and of course Mr Grandage directed)