Mathew Baynton’s Bottom Gets Rave Reviews

5 stars, apparently.

Mathew Baynton as Thomas Thorne in Ghosts
Photo: BBC/Monumental/Guido Mandozzi

(NB – Any outlet that didn’t write this headline back in October 2023, when it was announced that Ghosts and Horrible Histories star Mathew Baynton was to make his Royal Shakespeare Company debut in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is either a coward or worse – a grown-up.)

The notices are in! Press night for Eleanor Rhode’s RSC revival of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been and gone, and the reviews are highly favourable. Running from January 30 until March 30 at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the production is picking up more stars than Mario on a caffeine rush. It’s a hit.

And the loudest applause? That goes to Mat Baynton’s Bottom.

As GCSE English Lit sitters will hazily remember, Nick Bottom is the comic relief in Shakespeare’s fairy fantasy. A humble weaver who’s anything but humble, he’s the am-dram prong fitted with the head of a donkey by the mischievous sprite Puck, and with whom fairy queen Titania falls in love thanks to a spell.

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On BBC One in recent years, Bottom has been played by comedians Johnny Vegas and – in Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies’ production – Matt Lucas, and now on the prestigious RSC stage, Baynton’s the man.

According to the production’s reviews, Baynton really is the man. In his five-star write-up for The Guardian, Mark Lawson praises Baynton’s ability “to make Shakespeare’s artisan comedy – frequently laborious now – genuinely funny.”

Sarah Probert at The Birmingham Mail calls Baynton “an absolute riot”, gives him man of the match, and describes him as “so hilarious as Bottom I would test anyone to be able to keep a straight face at any point.” Peter Omerod in The Banbury Guardian concurs, calling Baynton “a superb clown, getting laughs with almost every movement and gesture and expression.”

Online outlet calls Baynton’s Bottom a joy, while another 5-star write-up from Nick Wayne at judges that Baynton “steals every scene with a very well judged and controlled comic performance, and a delightful theatrical physicality which is enchanting and amusing whether dressed in his smart tailored suit, his underpants or white ballet tights.”

It goes on and on, with many reviews noting shades of Baynton’s pompous, lovesick Romantic poet and famously Scottish character Thomas Thorne from BBC comedy Ghosts in the wonder that is his Bottom. Hearty congratulations then, to the RSC, to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and to Mat Baynton’s Bottom, a one of a kind.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until March 30 at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

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