MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by William Shakespeare.
Tour to 26 September 2015.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 July at.Old Schools Quadrangle Bodleian Library Catte Street Oxford OX1 3BG.
A Much Ado with many qualities.
A splendid company from Shakespeare’s Globe brings an apt Mediterranean lightness to Shakespeare’s generous-spirited comedy – one of several where the formal love story takes second place to more lively lovers. Here, it’s the verbal sparring of old hands at defying romance, Beatrice and Benedick, who reveal their underlying feelings when friends plot to allow each to ‘accidentally’ overhear that the other loves them.
In the main story, stirred by one of Shakespeare’s melancholy malignancies, such overhearing drives young Hero and husband-to-be Claudio apart. As so often, Shakespearean comedy is heightened by having to reach sunshine through cloud-threatened tracks.
The overall party atmosphere is finely handled on a booth stage – a wooden platform backed by arches suggesting a large house in a small space. The necessary doubling becomes a humorous highlight, with the players of serious characters relishing turning-out as constable Dogberry’s watchmen – as hapless a group as Falstaff’s recruits in Henry IV Part Two.
Robert Pickavance’s busily cheerful Leonato, his energy turning to fury when he believes his daughter Hero’s been unfaithful to Claudio, doubles as bent-double servant Ursula and watchman George Seacole, grinning with delight when given an anachronistic flashlight to operate as an assistant to Jim Kitson’s sublimely complacent Dogberry, for whom ignorance indeed seems bliss.
Any Much Ado’s success lies with Beatrice and Benedick. These are not star-turns, but both finely intelligent performances. Christopher Harper knows exactly how much self-confidence to inject into his certainty of being a confirmed bachelor and to explain becoming “Benedick, the married man”, while Emma Pallant’s Beatrice shows in depth, a generous spirited woman of strong feeling.
Max Webster’s production is almost a triumph. But no-one seems to have told him some venues, as in Oxford, would have audience embers round the sides – from where it was repeatedly impossible to see who was speaking, with important expressions and reactions masked by the backs of actors at the stage sides. Often it felt like waiting in the wings, trying to work out what precisely was happening on stage.
Such things are especially disappointing as a technical shortcoming in such an otherwise fine production.
Claudio/1st Watchman: Aaron Anthony.
Benedick/Sexton: Christopher Harper.
Margaret/Borachio/Friar/Francis: Joanne Howarth.
Don Pedro/2nd Watchman: Jim Kitson.
Don John/Dogberry: Alex Mugnaioni.
Beatrice/Verges: Emma Pallant.
Leonato/Ursula: Robert Pickavance.
Hero/Conrade: Jessica Warbeck.
Director: Max Webster.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Composer: John Barber.
Choreographer: Aline David.
Globe associate – Text: Giles Block.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn Macdonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate director: Eduard Lewis.
21 Jul-2 Aug Tue-Fri; Sun 7.45pm Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 2.30pm Old Schools Quadrangle Bodleian Library Oxford 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
6-8 Aug 8pm Mat Fri, Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Windsor 01753 853888 www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk
10-15 Aug Tue, Thu-Sat 2pm Mon, Thu 7.30pm Shakespeare’s Globe London 020 7401 9919.www.shakespearesglobe.com
16 Aug 7pm Sam Wanamaker Playhouse London 020 7401 9919 www.shakespearesglobe.com
25-30 Aug Tue-Sat 7pm Mat Thu, Sat, Sun 2pm Corpus Christie College Cambridge 01223 503333 www.cambridgeartstheatre.com
2-5 Sept 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond 01748 825252 www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk
7-13 Sept Tue 2pm Mon, Thu 7.30pm Fri 11.59pm Fri 7.30pm Sun 6.30pm sold out Shakespeare’s Globe London 020 7401 9919.
16-20 Sept 8pm Mat Thu, Sat 2pm Minack Theatre Porthcurno Cornwall 01736 810181 www.minack.com
23-26 Sept 7.45pm Mat Thu, Sat 2pm Curve Leicester 0116 242 3595 www.curveonline.co.uk