There is a certain joy behind the eyes of the entire cast of Much Ado About Nothing, or Love’s Labour’s Won, playing the Theatre Royal Haymarket, alongside Love’s Labour’s Lost. There are many reasons why it’s Shakespeare’s most performed play and the performers revel in the wordplay and the farce with absolute glee, making it one of the best nights out in the West End at this dreary time of year.
Edward Bennett as the witty and clumsily charming Benedick is first to bring a huge smile as he playfully exchanges quips with Lisa Dillon’s Beatrice, insulting everything including her being alive and Beatrice everything including his face, leaving very little room to doubt they are madly in love straight from the off. Their slow realisation, with a little persuasion by the rest of the ensemble, is the most real relationship in the play and the probable origin of those great love/hate stories in most modern rom coms. Bennett and Dillon bounce off each other relishing the genius in their lines and the space they’ve been given to appreciate them, indeed Bennett’s corpse felt most natural as his ridiculous stunts brought the audience to their knees.
The younger and sweeter love of Claudio (Tunji Kasim) and Hero (Rebecca Collingwood) brings about the anticipated villainy of Don John (Sam Alexander), for the worst villain is always a jealous one, and his plot to shame Hero in front of her father (a heart-wrenching performance by Steven Pacey) et al at the altar is the worst kind of ignominious and the centre of the plot. The centre of this performance however is without a doubt the collaborative set, designed by Simon Higlett, as grand as can be, and lit by Oliver Fenwick, as renaissance as can be. Each time a new scene is revealed, breath was taken away and warmth filled the stage, it must have been an absolute pleasure to perform on and in. Space was played with by director Christopher Luscombe to better highlight the beauty of each detail, sometimes for comic effect as with the cramped prison scene (centering around Nick Haverson’s barmy ass of a Dogberry), and sometimes with flair as the entire cast dances their way off stage in the finale.
Isn’t it just marvellous when a fabulous play is executed wonderfully? Running until 18th March 2017, book a ticket and warm thy cockles.
Review by Heather Deacon
‘Sigh no more, ladies – men were deceivers ever.’
Autumn 1918. A group of soldiers return from the trenches. The world-weary Benedick and his friend Claudio find themselves reacquainted with Beatrice and Hero. As memories of conflict give way to a life of parties and masked balls, Claudio and Hero fall madly, deeply in love, while Benedick and Beatrice reignite their own altogether more combative courtship.
Don’t miss Shakespeare’s two great romantic comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing (or Love’s Labour’s Won), as this widely acclaimed pairing arrive at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket, following hugely successful runs in Stratford-upon-Avon and Chichester.
Two sparklingly funny romances are brought together by the innovative matching of events, characters and themes. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, with a dazzling design by Simon Higlett and glorious music by Nigel Hess, the two productions are set either side of the First World War. Love’s Labour’s Lost conjures up the carefree elegance of a pre‑war Edwardian summer, whilst Much Ado About Nothing presents a changed world with the roaring 20s just around the corner. An immensely talented ensemble perform in both plays which can be seen as single performances or enjoyed as one extraordinary event on our two‑show days.
Much Ado About Nothing RSC at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
8 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT
Booking Until: 18th Mar 2017