There are very few productions which leave you feeling sad when they finish; for reality seems shockingly hollow after the magic you’ve witnessed on stage. The current production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre definitely falls into this category.
Directed by Jeremy Herrin, currently the Associate Director at the Royal Court, this production is energetic, maintaining a good pace from start to finish. This is Herrin’s first production at the Globe Theatre and I hope he gets the critical acclaim he deserves. Under his direction, even the rain yesterday couldn’t break the mystical spell of watching Shakespeare in an open theatre. The simple but ingenuous stage design depicting an orange grove and fountains evokes a warm Mediterranean garden whatever the British weather maybe up to. Not only is this garden (and space) pleasing to look at but it is also functional, seamlessly switching from a garden to a church and vice versa. The stage and the wonderful Moorish sounding music are the perfect prelude to what is to follow and what follows is a magical play that delivers the comedy, inviting the audience to join in the mirth and the excitement.
The two lead players, Eve Best and Charles Edwards, are flawless in their portrayals of Beatrice and Benedick respectively. Best’s Beatrice, with her hairstyle and gait, has an unmistakeable touch of the contemporary woman in her which sits perfectly well with Beatrice’s views about marriage, men and women’s will. What we get in this production is a confident Beatrice and not one who is afraid to love (and marry) because of the fear of rejection. Edwards manages to make Benedick both loveable and virile, making his character an instant hit with the audience. The separate eavesdropping scenes involving both Beatrice and Benedick where they are duped into thinking the other loves them have the right attributes of memorable Shakespearean scenes. I don’t want to give too much away but, needless to say, the audience will marvel at the stage direction. Neither Best nor Edwards outshines the other but the chemistry and the even-handed acting and stage presence between the two make Beatrice and Benedick the perfect sparring partners.
In contrast, the pairing of Ony Uhiara’s Hero and Philip Cumbus’ Claudio doesn’t flow naturally. Admittedly, these are not the most convincing of Shakespeare’s characters but the so called mutual attraction between both characters is awkward at times. Their reconciliation at the end looks and feels like they are simply going through the motions. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a bigger emphasis on the transactional nature of their relationship.
The rest of the cast give strong supporting performances. Joseph Marcell, who used to play the butler on the American sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air gives us a warts-and-all Leonato, who is funny, deceiving and an old man who can be easily deceived. Every word uttered by Matthew Pidgeon’s Don John is evil personified but his evilness extends to the way he spies on the other characters on stage. The famously funny scenes with Constable Dogberry (Paul Hunter) and his merry men, including his gigantic assistant Verges (Adrian Hood), don’t disappoint although after a while Dogberry’s antics can become a tad tiresome. The status quo amongst them defined by the size of their lanterns is terribly funny, however.
Curiously London will see two productions of Much Ado About Nothing this summer when the eagerly awaited West End production starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate opens soon. Competition is good but I am not prepared to pay for overpriced West End ticket prices. In any event, I don’t think I shall be missing out on anything – not after this exhilarating production at the Globe Theatre.
Much Ado About Nothing is on at the Globe Theatre until 1 October. Performance time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 20 minute interval. Tickets are available at the Box Office 020 7401 9919 or http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/box-office.