We all like a nice romantic comedy, don’t we? Something that distracts us, makes us laugh out loud, but which warms our hearts as well. As Shakespeare wrote, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’ – that’s the ‘truth universally acknowledged’ that Austen should have opened with. So, with the Michael Grandage Company’s interpretation of the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” showing at the Noël Coward Theatre for 10 weeks only, starring Sheridan Smith and David Walliams, this is certainly one romantic play not to be missed if you’re seeking a ‘laugh out loud’ moment this autumn.
Whether it’s between men and women, or taking place in Fairyland, ‘Love at first sight may be true for some… but it makes an ass of others’ – and that’s exactly what happens here. Sheridan Smith takes on the role of Titania, Queen of the Fairies, enchanted by her husband to fall in love with the first thing she sees after an argument. The object of her affections is the spell-stricken Nick Bottom, played by David Walliams. This in itself all takes place amid the giant, complex romantic entanglement that is the plot of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, monarchs being wed, young Athenians loving and not being loved in return, labourers playing at being actors playing tragic lovers, and fairies causing mischief left, right and centre. With Smith and Walliams known for “Gavin & Stacey” and “Little Britain”, respectively (and among other roles), this is sure to be a top-quality comedic production that tickles your funny bone and touches your heart.
The Grade-II listed Noël Coward Theatre is a perfect choice of venue for the run from September 7th to November 16th, also, given that the Royal Shakespeare Company has preferred it for its annual season of tragedies and greats such as Gielgud and Olivier have starred in “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” there. St Martin’s Lane isn’t a far leap for the Michael Grandage Company’s founders, either, director Grandage and his producer James Bierman having been at Covent Garden’s Donmar Warehouse previously. Indeed, the MGC will be continuing their Shakespearean theme at the Westminster venue with a run of “Henry V” directly afterwards (starring Jude Law).
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is so well known, it almost seems embedded in our culture. This romantic comedy has undergone so many adaptations on stage, on television, and on film that it almost seems unbelievable that further performances could hold our attention and excite us. Yet, the Michael Grandage Company’s interpretation promises to do just that. After all, it speaks to our real lives, doesn’t it, this eternal theme of unrequited love and the inherent humour in our methods of loving sometimes? Like the rest of Shakespeare’s body of work, it is a play with lasting appeal because it has an innate adaptability that seems to suit all ages.
As Theseus, the main bridegroom of the tale, states, “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains”. Why not rest yours and watch fictional others in romantic craze.