Gielgud Theatre, London – until 25 April 2020
The acclaimed television series by Ben Elton has now come to the West End starring David Mitchell as the Bard himself in what is his debut stage performance, although you would never know. Gemma Whelan as Kate, Bottom (Rob Rouse) and Burbage played by Steven Spiers are all cast members from the original television series.
Now it’s time to pull up your “puffling pants” and have a “futtingly” good night out and watch your favourite characters on the stage. Rouse in the role of Bottom is outstanding. His dry delivery and sarcastic tones which bring the Bard sharply back to reality are superbly delivered, he is my star of the show.
The quick-witted comedy you expect from Elton which is seen in the BBC series runs throughout this incredibly funny stage production. Inevitably there is a lot of social commentaries written into the plot and jibes at how some groups have and are treated by the theatre establishment. These are liberally scattered within the text and you never quite know what will come next.
The Bard’s ongoing commuter problems echo modern-day travelling with delayed or frequently cancelled public transport and the inadequate donkey (bus) replacement services being used instead.
As far as I could work out every single play written by Shakespeare was referenced at some point throughout the play either in the form of a direct quote, a play the Bard was about to write or a collective “the history plays”. Mocking some of his less successful works as they move along.
Alice Power, the talented lady responsible for set and costume design, has such an eye for detail. The material background depicting the Stratford Streets where Shakespeare lived to the internal furnishings at his London lodgings allow you to suspend your disbelief and briefly be transported away. The gradually growing costume worn by Dr John Hall (Mark Heap) raises many laughs from the audience as he desperately tries to woo Kate by showing off his exaggerated “Coddington”.
Director Sean Foley has obviously taken on board the Bards last desire in his written works to be able to write stage directions as Foley certainly used them to their full potential in staging this production.
Five “futtingly” Stars