Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Gray’s Inn Hall, short walk from Chancery Lane until 1st September
Runs 2h 20m including one interval
Review Info: Veronica Stein, 22nd August, 2018.
La Vie en Prose (and Verse)
The war is over, and the relief of freedom from German Occupation sets the French town of Antic Disposition’s Much Ado abuzz. Accordion music is in the air- and so is love, both between English soldier Claudio and the French Hero, and their pricklier, reluctant counterparts Benedick and Beatrice. Don John, the bastard brother of Claudio and Benedick’s commanding General, Don Pedro, may stir up some trouble before happily ever after arrives. Throw in some Jacques Tati-inspired slapstick and you’ve got a delightful Much Ado.
Alongside the transfusion of French elements in the script, from the national delineation between the lovers to the temporal cohesiveness of the Tati routines conjoined with post World War II Europe, the French je ne sais quoi is everywhere. Though Grays Inn Hall is a majestic English atrium of sorts, the red, white and blue bunting coupled with the splendid live music as played by the actors and composed by Nick Barstow is transporting to a different time and place.
As occurs in the best staging of the comedies, the real MVPs of the production are the clowns and characters devoted to the subplot. Louis Bernard as Dogberry is a gifted physical comedian who leads his band of musicians with aplomb and cluelessness in equal measure, and his earlier addition of a French waiter who struggles with his staff sets the scene many times over. Scott Brooks as accordionist Verges and Molly Miles as Margaret pack a comedic punch even when speechless, and Tommy Burgess as Borachio is a pitch-perfect minion whose casual masterminding of Claudio’s betrayal is skillfully delivered. Alfie Webster’s Don Jon is a measured, pained antagonist who begs us to take him for more than just an archetypical villain- and the lovers- and partial haters- are up to the task of carrying the story. Chiraz Aich and Nicholas Osmond seem to lack romantic potential in their initial barbs as Beatrice and Benedick- but as they become increasingly undone they grow increasingly endearing (and endeared!).
Much Ado About Nothing is actually about a lot of things: love, hate, the thin line between the two, jealousy, etc. Antic Disposition fuses these elements with their own references. This is an adaptation that stays true to the success of Shakespeare’s words while bringing something new to the table- where one presumes there is a baguette and some brie. You might leave after the play’s conclusion and feel tempted to purchase a beret.
Benedick/Pierre: Nicholas Osmond
Beatrice: Chiraz Aich
Borachio: Tommy Burgess
Don Pedro/Hugues: Theo Landey
Margaret: Molly Miles
Claudio/Georges: Alexander Varey
Don Jon/Sexton: Alfie Webster
Hero: Floriane Andersen
Dogberry/Friar Francis: Louis Bernard
Leonato: Chris Hespel
Verges: Scott Brooks
Directors: Ben Horslen and John Riseboro
Designer: John Riseboro
Lighting Designer: Lizzy Gunby
Composer/Musical Director: Nick Barstow
Choreography: Lucie Pankhurst
Photo: Mark Rylander