Playbill On-Line hosted a theatre tour to London's West End the week of June 28-July 5. Readers logged in daily to read reviews of the shows, as seen by dedicated theatregoers like yourself! The final day of Playbill On-Line's London theatre tour began with breakfast guest Sheridan Morley, theatre critic of the International Herald Tribune and the London Spectator, who led us in an overview of the shows we saw this week, with special attention paid to the prospects for Andrew Lloyd Webber's new Whistle Down the Wind, which we saw on its final preview.
Afterward we headed back across the Thames for a backstage tour of the Royal National Theatre complex. Some took taxis, but many strolled across Waterloo Bridge for one last look at the skyline: St. Paul's, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the twisted streets where we'd seen so much memorable theatre.
After a final afternoon of shopping we gathered for dinner at the venerable Simpson's restaurant, savoring the hand-carved roasts and joints, then proceeded to Regent's Park for a stroll amid the gorgeously landscaped flower gardens in full bloom.
With swifts swooping through the outdoor theatre and the perfume of acres of roses carried on every breeze, we sat back for the annual performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a wooded setting that might as well have been home to Puck, Oberon, Titania, Peaseblossom and the rest.
Here's how the Playbill On-Line critics-for-the-week reviewed A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Caroline Bonacci of New York:
Wow. I never thought Shakespeare could be so much fun. I've seen other productions [of ] and they were not nearly as wonderful as this. The fact it was outdoors added so much to the atmosphere. All the performances were superb. The whole ensemble was right on the mark.
Sandra Miron of Texas:
Seeing it outdoors added a whole new dimension. The rustling of the trees, the whole setting. It's just wonderful seeing Shakespeare outside on a nice night. I like the comedy troupe [Bottom's actors] and loved it [the special effect] when they [Puck and the other supernaturals] would speak and it echoed. It's the first Shakespeare I've see since high school.
Evelyn Schentes of Texas:
I've seen it before, but this was magic. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I understood everything. It was my husband's introduction to Shakespeare!
Stanley Schentes of Texas:
Funny. Funny. Funny.
Janelle Price of Texas:
This was a great finale to a wonderful week. The guy who played Bottom [Ian Talbot], he was just great. And the guy who played the Lion. I just loved the expressions on his face. And I loved the way they used the props, especially the dog and the umbrella. A lot of people are afraid of Shakespeare because they think it will be hard to follow, but this was so easy to follow. If you take another group, you consider a picnic [in Regent's Park]. Throughout the performance you could smell the flowers [from the park's flower gardens] every time there was a breeze.
Albert T. Kim of New York:
The production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Open Air Theater in Regent's Park (London), accompanied by the faint scent of flowers and cool breezes, was magical. Nicola Duffet, as Titania, with her deep, smoky voice, was particularly effective, exuding sexual and political power within the fairy kingdom. Also noteworthy was Ian Talbot in the role of Bottom. A natural clown, Talbot delivered his lines, as he and his band of rustics prepared for the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe, with delicious bombast. Rebecca Johnson, Damien Matthews, Timothy Watson and Helen Grace, playing the quartet of lovers, running after one another in Keystone Cops-like chases, were also good, although Grace, as Helena, with her somewhat shrill, high-pitched voice, panted one too many times like a spaniel on hands and knees. A stronger Helena always seems to be more effective for the play. Music provided by Titania's colorful band of fairies and an elegant dance performed by Titania and Oberon after their reconciliation added to the magic. With Puck's last, soft breath, the deep purple lights on stage were extinguished, and the enjoyable dream came to an end.
Edward Price of Texas:
The actors were very good. I was pleasantly surprised. You could tell the actors were enjoying themselves. It was a delightful evening, not just for the play itself, but the for the setting -- the park. The highlight for me was the Mechanicals [Bottom's troupe]. Bottom, of course, stole the show. I can tell it was well-received. The audience laughed in all the right spots. It was a wonderful evening overall.
Conard Kester of Texas:
I thought that one guy didn't die fast enough [a joke: Ian Talbot comically prolongs the death scene in Pyramus and Thisbe]. It was a wonderful performance. This was absolutely the best [Shakespeare] I've ever seen.
Ronald Woan of Massachusetts:
I loved it. It was a great, whimsical comedy. And thank God the weather was good.
Kathleen Reinhardt of Texas:
I thought it was absolutely delightful. Everything worked so well. The setting was beautiful . If that was your first Shakespeare, what a wonderful experience. The actor playing Bottom was wonderful. The others all did their job well. It also was the sexiest production I ever saw of Shakespeare. Hands were all over the place. I've never seen it where it's been so obvious. Overall, a wonderful experience.
Tami Wilson of Delaware:
I liked the costumes and thought it was funny, but I didn't understand it.
John Saxton of Delaware:
I didn't understand the beginning. But then at the end it got really funny and you could understand it. It got clearer as it went along. The open-air theatre made it a nice night out.
Jean Cerrone of Nevada:
I had never seen A Midsummer Night's Dream. I thought it was going to be dull, but it was very funny. I enjoyed it immensely.I found myself laughing very heartily. Very amusing I would see it again. I especially liked the queen fairy [Nicola Duffet as Titania]. Very sensual. We were very lucky with the weather.
Henriette Richman of Florida:
It was one of the most delightful Midsummer Night Dreams I've ever seen. It was just a joy sitting there. It was easily understandable. The only thing is, the costumes [in Edwardian style, by David Knapman] were too modern. It didn't seem right. It didn't feel like Shakespeare's time. My eye kept seeing it in the older age. It was one of the most delightful parts of this trip.
Grace Kent of New Jersey:
I really enjoyed it very much. The last time I did Shakespeare -- Midsummer Night's Dream -- it was in high school. I've read Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet can be very serious. It takes a while to get used to the words -- to be able to understand it -- but then it flows easily.
Helen Cyker of Florida:
This is the first time I've ever seen any Shakespeare. I found it very entertaining, light, very cute. I was surprised it was easy to understand. We had done Hamlet when I was in high school, and I found that very difficult.
Celeste Fried of Colorado:
It was wonderful, the whole atmosphere there. It was a fitting ending to the week. At the end, the whole audience [gasp]. How often in the theatre do you get that?
Did this trip sound like fun? We're booking more trips in the coming year, including the next, in November. Click here for information on how you can join other dedicated theatre lovers in the tour of a lifetime to London's West End.