MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: William Shakespeare
Courtyard, Stratford Upon Avon to 15 September
Noel Coward, London, 22 September to 27 October
Runs: 3h 25m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, 01 08 12
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
It’s amazing how MUCH ADO has opened up to embrace the Indian culture; or is it, rather, that the Indian culture, in Iqbal Khan’s fabulous production, has opened up to embrace MUCH ADO? Whichever it is, this is an easeful, gently paced, detailed production that’s underpinned by great honesty. Such open-heartedness also creates a vulnerability; in this presentation both performers and performance itself seem vulnerable – and our response is to embrace it and hold it close as we would a much loved friend.
Khan moves the play along at a leisurely pace (in the heat of India could he do otherwise?) It’s long at 3h 25m, but the time, as they say, flies.
Meera Syal’s Beatrice is a gem. She begins as almost an outsider – Westernised in dress and an easy, sharp humour that stems from her perceived superior sophistication. But as she grows through the play she enters into the world and embraces it. A move accentuated as she moves (as does everyone) into light, white, simple clothes. Resolution lies in honesty and simplicity. Syal’s gives the appearance that she has lived to play this role. Paul Bhattacharjee’s Benedick is a perfect complement. The older Benedick feels 100% real and his biting humour unforced. Growing into his love for Beatrice he becomes younger (a terrific transformation) and we love him for it.
Khan puts huge weight on the second plot (Hero and Claudio). Both Amara Karan and Sagar Arya give heartbreakingly touching performances; these are so strong that, after the shaming and the resolution, we almost don’t mind about Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship.
But as we return to them, we find we care very much and their final embrace earns a warm response. Khan and his team understand the balance in this play.
This is a strong ensemble. Madhav Sharma combines authoritarianism and love in equal measures and Shiv Crewal’s Don Pedro is refreshingly down-to-earth. Gary Pillai brews a bitterness that is frightening and shocking.
And the whole looks stunning in Tom Piper’s set and Himani Dehlvi’s costume designs. The army outfits work a treat, giving the male scenes a real blokieness and that the women don the soldiers outfits for the party speaks volumes.
What a delight!
Sagar Arya – Claudio
Raj Bajaj – Balthasar
Paul Bhattacharjee – Benedick
Rudi Dharmalingam – George Seacole/Soldier
Neil D’Souza – Conrade
Kulvinder Ghir – Borachio
Shiv Grewal – Don Pedro
Ernest Ignatius – Antonio
Muzz Khan – Hugh Oatcake
Aysha Kala – Watch
Amara Karan – Hero
Darren Kuppan – Messenger
Robert Mountford – Friar Francis
Simon Nagra – Dogberry
Chetna Pandya – Margaret
Bharti Patel – Verges
Gary Pillai – Don John
Madhav Sharma – Leonato
Peter Singh – Sexton
Meera Syal – Beatrice
Anjana Vasan – Maid
Director – Iqbal Khan
Set Designer – Tom Piper
Costume Designer – Himani Dehlvi
Lighting – Ciaran Bagnall
Sound – Andrew Franks
Fights – Kev McCurdy
Music – Niraj Chag