MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, 4Star****,London, in rep to 25 March 2017

by William Shakespeare.
4Stars ****

Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London in repertoire with Love’s Labour Lost until 25 March, 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30 pm
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7930 8800

Review: William Russell, 15 December

Much delight in a dazzling production

This sparkling version of Much Ado About Nothing is possibly the best musical comedy to hit the West End stage in decades. The songs and music – score by Nigel Hess – are enchanting and the whole thing could as easily, given the plot, be renamed the Boy Friends as the melodies channel Sandy Wilson and every now and then a touch of Ivor Novello.

It is being performed in tandem with Love’s Labour Lost as there are similarities between the two plays only to be expected given a playwright producing a new play for a repertory theatre – think what Gilbert gave Sullivan.

Loves Labour Lost takes place in a golden Edwardian summer, Much Ado – there has been a war from which Benedict, Claudio and the wicked Don John have just returned – some time towards or just after the end of the Great War. It opens with hospital beds on the lawn of Leonato’s country house and Beatrice and Hero dressed as nurses, but the conceit is soon dropped in Christopher Luscombe’s glorious staging and once the witty romantic battle between Benedict and Beatrice begins things go much as expected – except for the music, sometimes as song, sometimes as background themes film fashion, which lifts it all onto another plane.

Lisa Dillon, a lovely, acid tongued Beatrice, a maid just on the verge of spinsterhood, is matched perfectly by Edward Bennett as a not quite confirmed bachelor Benedict. There is an occasional clashing of gears elsewhere – the language does not always quite fit in with the world of Downton Abbey we see before us, but no matter. The production, which has been around for a while and is working like clockwork, gets over that, although the fact remains that Claudio, Hero’s dim suitor, is by any standards a rat of the first degree.

The Dogberry scenes, possibly some of the unfunniest Shakespeare ever wrote, shine because although the malapropisms are tedious Luscombe has set up some terrific silent film prat fall comedy routines. Nick Haverson hams it up furiously with an exit applause round performance and is aided by a lovely dead pan Verges from Roderick Smith. This is as happy and strongly cast an evening as one could hope for, and Dillon and Bennett do full justice to that most famous battle of the sexes.

Leonato: Steven Pacey.
Antonio: John Arthur/
Hero: Rebecca Collingwood.
Beatrice: Lisa Dillon.
Balthasar: Harry Waller.
Ursula: Paige Carter.
Margaret: Emma Manton.
Borachio: Chris Nayak.
Butler: Nick Harris.
Nurse: Anna Wheatley.
Don Pedro: John Hodgkinson.
Don John: Sam Alexander.
Benedick: Edward Bennett.
Claudio: Tunji Kasim.
Conrade: William Belchamber.
Dispatch Rider: Peter McGovern.
Dogberry: Nick Haverson.
Verges: Roderick Smith.
George Seacoal: Peter McGovern.
Hugh Oatcake: Jamie Tyler.
Francis Pickbone: Nick Harris.
Friar Frances: Jamie Newall.
Sexton: Chris McCalphy.

Director: Christopher Luscombe.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Music: Nigel Hess.
Lighting Designer: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound Designer: Jeremy Dunn.
Choreographer: Jenny Arnold.
Fight Director: Kevin McCurdy.
Voice Coach: Alex Bingley.
Dialect Coach: Martin McKellan.
Musical Director: Bob Broad.

2016-12-16 15:14:38

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