David Walliams and Sheridan Smith to sex up Midsummer Night's Dream

Michael Grandage has a sensational plan for Shakespeare's comedy

Is it inspired casting or a Shakespearean joke too far? David Walliams, the actor, children's author, charity swimmer, talent-show judge and comedian with an apparently unslakable passion for dressing in women's clothes, has been signed to star in an "absolutely sexual" new West End production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He will play Bottom the Weaver this September in Michael Grandage's staging of Shakespeare's comedy at the Noel Coward Theatre. Playing opposite him, as Titania queen of the fairies, will be Sheridan Smith, acclaimed for her performance as Elle Woods in the stage musical Legally Blonde.

Walliams and Smith are just two of the big-name stars signed by the acclaimed director Grandage, pictured, for a season of five plays with his new company. He was previously attached to the Donmar Warehouse.

In the others, Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw will star in Peter and Alice, a new work by John Logan; Simon Russell Beale will take on the role of cross-dressing Captain Dennis in the Second World War farce Privates on Parade; Daniel Radcliffe will perform the title role in the comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan; and Jude Law will appear in Shakespeare's Henry V. The Michael Grandage Company aims to attract audiences through lower ticket prices. More than 100,000 tickets at £10 have been set aside for the season, which runs from December to February 2014.

Grandage's Dream goes further than some commentators in bringing the erotic elements to the fore.

"Once in the forest there's a kind of anarchic sexual freedom, and the casting of Sheridan and David helps me define that," he says.

"As Titania and Bottom, they're already in the forest, doing what they do. When I met Sheridan and David, I said, 'Let's make it a really, absolutely sexual production.'"

The play is actually more about love than sex, but it contains enough double entendres and potentially rude bits to delight an audience inured to Walliams's broad comedy in Little Britain.

Generations of British schoolboys have sniggered over "Puck" and "Bottom" and "ass", the presence of "fairies" and the distributing of "love-juice".

Playgoers will relish the moment in Act 1, Scene 2, when the company of Athenian tradesmen is being allotted their roles in a forthcoming play, and one, Flute, is offered the part of the heroine, Thisby. "Nay, faith, let me not play a woman," says Flute. "I have a beard coming." That, as TV viewers know, never stopped a befrocked and bearded Walliams declaring "...for I am a lay-dee".

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk