Always first in line to play the ass, David Walliams hee-haws crowd-pleasingly as donkey-headed Bottom in this sultry reimagining of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, mingling with Sheridan Smith’s lusty Titania and a string of exceptionally chiselled fairies.
Set against the backdrop of fairyland’s glistening moon, Shakespeare’s tale of mischief and misplaced devotion is adeptly retold by a talented cast, whose comedic skills bring pace and energy to director Michael Grandage’s turbocharged interpretation. The high octane drama, mirth and calamity of this heady ‘Midsummer Night’ are riotously unpicked as Gavin Fowler’s naughty fairy, Puck, stirs up a love-fuelled frenzy on stage.
Leading the star billing in this fourth instalment of Grandage’s current season of plays is West End darling Sheridan Smith, who is at her gaudy, bawdy best as fairy queen Titania. Writhing around with her band of spliff-smoking playboy pixies, Smith excels as the mythical forest’s lusty empress, devouring her bucktoothed bedfellow Bottom.
Her kingdom, apparently populated by the cast of ‘Hair’ reimagined as Abercrombie models at a ’90s rave, is a smoke-filled haven of lust: one in which her donkey-headed Bottom Walliams can indulge his ‘Little Britain’-flavoured penchants for the camp and grotesque.
Elsewhere in the forest, tomfoolery is afoot, with four lost young Athenian lovers chasing around Christopher Oram’s mythical forest set
in their delicates, providing hilarious results. Katherine Kingsley’s woebegone Helena is hysterical yet strangely endearing,
a sort of ’30s-style Bridget Jones caught between two fickle lovers.
Two scenes set in the human world of Athens bookend the play. They feel undernourished, and don’t sufficiently tether the play’s strands together. Here, Theseus and his human queen, Hippolyta (also played by Smith) fail to demonstrate any real depth of character, and some of the play’s darker moments have been traded in for a few extra laughs.
Still, there is much to enjoy in this production, and if this ‘Dream’ doesn’t entirely enchant, it does weave its own little spell.
By Charlotte Lytton
Charlotte, 22, is a freelance digital journalist from north London. She was selected to write this review as part of the Time Out Takeover – a special edition of the magazine written entirely by readers.