Image courtesy of www.londonist.com
Much Ado About Nothing – Wyndham’s Theatre, London
I deliberately didn’t read any reviews of this production before going to see it.
I’m not going to lie, part of the reason why I wanted to see it was for the profession reunion of David Tennant and Catherine Tate. The other reason, Much Ado was the only Shakespeare play actually enjoyed studying at school, it was for these two reasons that I wanted this production of Much Ado to be the first Shakespeare play I would see in an actual theatre.
So, less than twelve hours on and I decided to read some of the critics reviews online.
Despite not be scathing, all three reviews in my opinion, seem to be writing in order to please the ‘purists’ out there who inevitably, have endeavoured to favour the alternative production also currently running across the river at The Globe.
It was obvious that comparisons would be made, as with everything, but I’m glad I chose this one to go and see.
Something which appealed to me, but doesn’t seem to have impressed the critics is the idea of the Shakespearean text being used in the setting of 1980s Gibraltar.
The women in costumes of bright colours, make them suited to the era. The men arriving in crisp white naval uniforms, clearly on leave from their latest endeavours.
The sets consisting of large whitewashed columns and wooden doors, all used to complete the look of a holiday villa, the occasional appearance of two decorators remaining unclear until the scenes later in the play.
The key casting in this production is obviously the pairing of Tennant and Tate, brought together following their successful TV partnership, this of course carries the risk of the audience being filled with Doctor Who fans, but this didn’t seem to be an issue on the evening I went.
They definitely don’t disappoint, they’re at their best when sparring in quick-witted verbal taunts.
Tennant is an ideal Benedick, with a surprising flare for comic timing, which is displayed in the eavesdropping scene, handled triumphantly with the perfect amount of choreographed slapstick, this is also carried through to the similar scenes involving Tate and her female counterparts.
It’s these two scenes which provide the explanations for the appearances of the decorators.
Tennat also successfully manages to include some sweet vulnerability to his character, most notably whilst dressed in a marvellous Madonna-esque outfit and getting insulted by Beatrice who is unaware of his identity.
Catherine Tate however, doesn’t quite match this level of poignancy and remains rather unattached, whether this is because it is her professional Shakespeare debut is unclear, but her comedic turn excels and I still find her extremely engaging to watch.
The rest of the cast is also good, to be frank, I’m not familiar with most of the supporting cast apart from Jonathan Coy and Adam James, I don’t feel to bad about this though after finding that this is actually Tom Bateman’s (Claudio) professional theatre debut.
Sarah McRae seems to revel in her role as Hero, complete with a Princess Diana inspired meringue wedding dress.
Apart from our two leads, there are three performances who for me stand out, firstly John Ramm, who is clearly channelling Rambo in his turn as the Constable Dogberry and receiving much of the audience’s laughter and applause.
The second, Elliot Levey, is someone I will definitely be looking out for in the future, and a delight as the rather squirmy, and dare I say camp villain Don John, as opposed to his brother and the third superb performance, Don Pedro, played effortlessly by Adam James, often seen on TV, usually as flirtatious, seductive, self-assured characters, and here he is no different, clearly comfortable in his role, and is thankfully given the opportunity to show another side to his character, displaying a clear but brief glimpse of vulnerability and loneliness at the moment he makes a play for Beatrice and is ultimately rejected.
Overall, I enjoyed this play immensely and am not interested in a ‘purists’ view on how a Shakespeare play should be produced and performed.
It does exactly what I expect from this particular play, it’s well acted and has enough humour and heart in equal measures to remain enjoyable, and for me that’s much to say about something.