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REVIEW: **** (four stars) Steve Sutherland finds a dreamy take on modern manners in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, until 30th March

Every once in a while an actor finds something in a popular role that not only makes us fall in love with the character all over again but actually sheds the entire play in a brand new light.

Mathew Baynton is one such actor and his Bottom is a rare case in point.

“Bully” Bottom is, of course, traditionally a braggart and buffoon, too big for his britches and really just a comic sop to gently satirise the artistic delusions of Shakespeare’s contemporary board-treaders. Baynton’s Bottom is an altogether more complex creation.

For a start, he ain’t ugly and he ain’t thick. This is a handsome chap who is very well turned out in a business suit with a wiz of a modish haircut and a nice turn of speech.

He is the very opposite of uncouth and carries about him an air of surety and inner confidence. It’s where that confidence comes from that creates all the fun.

Baynton’s Bottom is a victim of that most modern of unfortunate maladies – entitlement.

Mathew Baynton's Bottom
Mathew Baynton's Bottom

He appears to have been encouraged – whether by his parents, his schooling or just his own over-stimulated ego – to believe that he is, in fact, talented when all the evidence is to the contrary. As soon as he saunters on, we recognise him.

Bred on the wicked lie that we feed all of our kids that if you work hard enough at something and believe in your goals, you can realise your dream, this Bottom is blundering through life happily oblivious to the fact that success at anything is only actually bestowed on the privileged, well-connected or insanely lucky.

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