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Review of Much Ado About Nothing at the Rose Theatre Kingston

Much Ado About Nothing cast. Photo credit Mark Douet
Much Ado About Nothing cast. Photo credit Mark Douet

Director Simon Dormandy has set this production in a luxury spa hotel in contemporary Sicily. I have been to several less successful productions where the action has taken place in randomly selected conflicts around the world; this production cleverly puts it back in Sicily where Shakespeare himself set his play. The conflict that Don Pedro is returning from is a Mafia feud.

Designer Naomi Dawson has made great use of the Rose’s unique stage area, fitting in a hotel bedroom on the upper level, a foyer area and a terrace. The design extends into the pit area with comfortable hotel style seating provided for the groundlings. Orange trees and clever lighting create the atmosphere of a warm evening in the Mediterranean.

The play begins with a recorded announcement welcoming guests to the Messina Hotel Spa experience and listing all the facilities it has to offer; a perfect venue for Don Pedro’s victory party. Gun-toting Mafia men guard the hotel whilst the festivities take place. The celebration ball becomes a fancy dress party with masked superheroes, the most convincing masked ball I have ever seen.

The two main plot threads are the courtship of two couples Hero and Claudio and Beatrice and Benedick. The first couple keen to marry but the wedding is thrown into disarray because Claudio has been told that Hero has been unfaithful. The second couple older and both set against marriage. The comedy of the play is in the way the committed singletons are manipulated by their friends into declaring their love for one another. Calam Lynch makes an impressive debut as Claudio and I also enjoyed Peter Bray’s performance as Don John and Silas Wyatt-Barke who managed to play Balthazar, George Seacole, the guitar and the mandolin. The absolute stars of the evening were John Hopkins and Mel Giedroyc as Benedick and Beatrice. I felt every pain with Benedick suffering a hangover: everything too loud, too bright and too difficult. His eavesdropping on Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato was inventive, athletic and hilarious. Everybody loves Mel, from Mel and Sue, but who knew she was such a brilliant actress. Much Ado About Nothing has never been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays; I have seen some dreadful productions. This production has made me see it in another light, the jokes seemed new and fresh, and the dialogue completely understandable. A beautiful and hugely entertaining production.

5 Star Rating

Review by Sally Knipe

Don Pedro is victorious. The turf war in the city is won and the Mafia overlord brings his entourage to Messina, a luxury spa hotel deep in the Sicilian hills, to hide out, recover and party. While Leonato, the hotel owner, fawns over his clan boss, his daughter, Hero, wins the heart of the Don’s young protégé. Meanwhile, Beatrice, the no-nonsense, customer-experience manager, has unfinished business to see to with Benedick, Pedro’s commitment-phobic consigliere. But when Hero is disgraced, the party is over, love turns to hatred and new battle lines are drawn.

Beneath its witty surface, Much Ado About Nothing is a powerful exploration of the struggle for love, identity and self-knowledge in a male-dominated world – as relevant today as ever. The Rose’s production will use Shakespeare’s language in a sharp contemporary setting that not only offers glorious opportunities for physical comedy amid the furnishings of a spa hotel but also provides a social context that enhances the darker themes in this timeless comic gem.

Mel Giedroyc as Beatrice and John Hopkins as Benedick, Peter Bray (Don John/House Clerk), Sam Dastor (Antonio/Verges), Peter Guinness (Don Pedro), Victoria Hamnett (Margaret/Watchman), Kate Lamb (Hero), Calam Lynch (Claudio), Caolan McCarthy (Conrad/Friar), Nicholas Prasad (Borachio), David Rintoul (Leonato), Katherine Toy (Ursula/Hugh Oatcake), Stewart Wright (Dogberry) and Silas Wyatt-Barke (Balthazar/George Seacole).

The play reunites Mel Giedroyc with director Simon Dormandy after their collaboration on the UK première of Luce by JC Lee in 2016.

Rose Theatre Kingston, Granville & Parham Productions and Antic Face present
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Simon Dormandy; Set & Costume Designer: Naomi Dawson

Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant; Composer & Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls
Casting Director: Sarah Bird


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