13 September 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Noel Coward Theatre

It is easy to see that the twin billing of Sheridan Smith and David Walliams was designed to pull the punters in, and it worked.

I bought my ticket over a year ago in June 2012 which is how I managed to get a seat in the front row of the circle. That cost me around £55 against a normal ticket price for me in a small fringe theatre of £20. The cast and the price were enough to raise expectations and they were raised further by the play.

A Midsummer Night's Dream may not be Shakespeare's best, whatever that means, but it is one of the most approachable and one of the most played. I think everybody studies it at school at some point. And I think that is when I last saw it, unless two operatic versions at Glyndebourne count.

It is also a step-up from the last Smith/Walliams joint venture, Mr Stink.

The play is what it is and as everybody has studied it at school so there is no point saying much about it.

Sheridan Smith (Titania) and David Walliams (Bottom) play cameo roles and so the story relied on the four lesser mortal who played the crossed lovers Lysander, Hermia, Helena and Demetrius. Luckily they were all competent enough and I found Hermia particularly enchanting.

Smith and Walliams came to the fore in their comic love scene inspired by Oberon's potion. Smith played it rather like Smutty Janet (from Two Pints...) and Walliams went for the rounded speech of the posh cross-dressers from Little Britain. I found his voice the hardest to follow.

While there was nothing wrong with the acting the rest of the production felt a little tacky, especially when compared to what Glyndebourne had done with the same story. There was almost nothing to the set and clearly nothing had been spent on the odd collection of costumes either.

I went expecting, and having paid for, a special performance and what I got was a perfectly adequate but forgettable production. Once again I was reminded why I tend to avoid the West End.

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