Review of Much Ado About Nothing – Theatre Royal Haymarket

Much Ado About NothingMuch ado about Nothing or Love’s Labour’s Won, is currently performing alongside Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

This double-bill is the latest offering from the RSC, Chichester Festival Theatre, TRH Productions, Jonathan Church production and Duncan C Weldon. Both plays are performed in tandem sharing a cast and creative team.

The creative team on this show deserves high-praise, their decision to set the two plays in Edwardian times, straddling the Great War with each performance sharing a set – based on the stately home of Charlecote Park near Stratford-upon-Avon is a work of genius. It also works well setting the piece at Christmas time, not only mirroring the audience’s timeline, but also adding all the wonderful Christmas feelings of coming home, parties, warmth, family, love and fighting siblings!

The production boasts a marvellous set. It’s designed to work well in the proscenium arch, so often the stage looks like a photograph. Throughout the short 2 hours 20 minutes, we visit various rooms within Leonato’s home and grounds. The set has been designed to reverse upstage allowing easy shifting between scenes. As an audience member, it’s easy to get lost in their picturesque world of upstairs’ living; lords and ladies.

For those of you who are not familiar with this great Shakespearean comedy, I would say it is a great entry level show, the story is very easy to follow, it is written in prose, rather than verse and the piece is definitely played for comic value. The set and costumes have an opulent beauty which is aesthetically very pleasing. There is song, dance and much merriment! If you are a fan of bawdy, silliness and physical humour then this is definitely for you. For me, the best scene takes place in the first act, Benedick is hiding behind a curtain whilst Leonato and Claudio are regaling stories of Beatrice’s love for him. This scene is a definite LOL moment. Edward Bennett as Benedick shines bright.

As with all of Shakespeare’s work, there are a number of stock characters. For Much Ado About Nothing, the performance of the Village Idiot is taken on by Nick Haverson as the Dogberry, a constable is a tour-de-force. He is wonderful, his portrayal is up there with the greats like Norman Wisdom and Frank Spencer, he really does take the comedy in this piece to another level.

The village cast have some great scenes that are a pure joy to watch including a fantastic table turning scene which cannot fail to get a laugh.

The casting of the “lovers” Hero and Claudio and Benedick and Beatrice is hugely crucial to the success of this play. Frustratingly I felt that the comedic elements of the play interfered with the darkness that Hero and Claudio experienced. For me, this is a great a shame because I wanted to experience the dark as well as the light in this play. This piece is definitely played for laughter allowing little opportunity to experience hurt, dark and pathos. I do think this was a directorial decision rather than a slight on the abilities of Rebecca Collingwood and Tunji Kasim.

Comparatively, Edward Bennett’s Benedick and Lisa Dillon’s Beatrice is a great coupling, these two performers spark off each other beautifully and are a pleasure to watch. My favourite part of the play was watching these two fighters, or lovers, or fighting lovers or loving fighters!…

I would recommend this production as a great alternative to a pantomime, it has the Christmas spirit, a beautiful setting, and a hard-working cast.

4 and a Half stars

Review by Faye Stockley

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

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