Autumn is fast approaching and, like Keats, we always find there’s a romantic air to the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. Indeed, coming in a few weeks’ time is a theatrical treat for London audiences who are craving dramatic affairs of the heart as the weather becomes grey and drizzly and a chill creeps into the air: the Michael Grandage Company will be performing Shakespeare’s renowned comedy of relationships, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, keeping alive memories of summer and warming hearts before the onset of winter.
Showing between September 7th and November 16th at the Noël Coward Theatre on St Martin’s Lane, the Michael Grandage Company – founded by its namesake director, with producer James Bierman, both formerly of the Donmar Warehouse – is employing the considerable talents of Sheridan Smith and David Walliams, in the respective roles of Titania, Queen of the Fairies, and Nick Bottom, weaver and amateur actor. With both stars well known for their comedic expertise (Smith for “Gavin & Stacey” and Walliams for “Little Britain”, among others), one can only imagine what laughs may come from the company’s teaser of “Love at first sight may be true for some… but it makes an ass of others.”
The plot of “A Midsummer’s Night”, thought to have been written in either 1594 or 1595 by England’s favourite dramatist, is widely known, in no small part due to its lasting popularity and extensive list of adaptations over the years on stage, on television, and on film. The foundation relationship is the wedding of Theseus, King of Athens, to Hippolyta, Amazonian queen. However, the audience is distracted by many more potential and actual romantic liaisons: four young lovers whose affections are all in a muddle (Hermia loves Lysander but is told she must marry Demetrius, on pain of death or chastity in a nunnery; Helena, Hermia’s closest friend, is in love with Demetrius; both men are in love with Hermia); an acting troupe of labourers who plan to perform “Pyramus and Thisbe”, adding yet more subtle romantic theme; and the King of the Fairies, Oberon’s trick on his wife, Titania, that goes awry and finds her affections turned in a very unusual direction. As Theseus declares near the close, “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet / Are of imagination all compact” – but the ending won’t be spoilt here for those unfamiliar with the play.
The Grade-II listed Noël Coward Theatre (the Albery until 2006) has been host to much of Shakespeare’s repertoire: classically, John Gielgud as “Hamlet” and Laurence Olivier in “Romeo and Juliet”, while more recently the Royal Shakespeare Company’s have chosen it for their annual season of tragedies. Michael Grandage’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” itself follows last autumn’s run of “Much Ado About Nothing” and tickets are available from £10 to £57.50.
As summer disappears, and ‘gathering swallows twitter in the skies’, take yourself to Westminster and let Puck leave you wanting more with ‘these visions’, funny and romantic, though ‘No more yielding but a dream’.