London Critics Underwhelmed By Vanessa Redgrave And James Earl Jones As Shakespearean Lovers

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epa03871453 A rescue worker climbs across a line to help trapped people in Chailpanchingo, Mexico, 17 September 2013. According to media reports, Hurricane Ingrid was downgraded to a tropical storm but continued to pour heavy rain over eastern Mexico, where it killed at least 34 people.  EPA/LENIN OCAMPO TORRES

Many also felt it was unsuccessful. The Guardians Michael Billington awarded just one star out of five on Friday, calling it a senseless production of misdirected oddity ineffectively staged and puzzlingly cast. Two great actors are left struggling to find their character, and sometimes even their lines, he wrote. There was some praise for the 1940s setting in an English village billeting a band of mostly African-American U.S. troops and for a mischief-making spirit bubbling under the surface of Rylances production. Libby Purves in The Times called it one of the oddest evenings I have ever spent but gave it four stars, enchanted by Redgraves magnificent indiscipline and Jones magical twinkle … hilarious physical expressiveness and drop-dead comic timing. A Midsummer Nights Dream, directed by Michael Grandage, is a youthful, fast-paced production of the magical comedy anchored by two small-screen stars: actress Sheridan Smith and David Walliams, half of the comedy duo Little Britain. Smith, who has been garnering acclaim as a versatile stage actress in plays ranging from Legally Blonde: The Musical to Hedda Gabler, plays the fairy queen Titania in Shakespeares play about young lovers bewitched, bothered and bewildered during a mood-altering summer night. Walliams is Bottom, the pompous weaver transformed into an ass by the mischievous sprite Puck. His broad, campy performance won over most, but not all, reviewers. Paul Taylor in the Independent found Walliams delightfully funny, though the Daily Telegraphs Charles Spencer disliked his smarmy, supercilious demeanor. Walliams crowd-pleasing turn was typical of a confident production, played at a ferocious clip, that gives the magical forest setting a trippy Woodstock vibe. Amid blasts of rock music and bursts of tie-dye, fairy king Oberon (Padraic Delaney) struts around like a bare-chested rock star, while Smiths Titania is a Janis Joplin-esque den mother to a band of sprites. There is also a fair amount of attractive young flesh on display as the quartet of confused lovers swaps sexy invective in the forest. While some reviewers felt the production didnt touch the heart as much as it might, it undeniably drew hearty laughter. Its another winner for Grandage, who has staged a successful season of plays that has appealed to younger audiences through a combination of big-name casting, top-notch acting and tickets priced as low as 10 pounds ($16).