Review: Much Ado about Nothing – The Globe

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Music, laughter, and witty repartee

The musicians open the play, walking onto the stage and quickly joined by the company singing and dancing, writes Elizabeth Carlin. 

There is talk of the imminent return of soldiers from the war, chat about Benedict and Claudio causing blushes for Hero (Lydia Fleming) and witty scorn from Beatrice (Amalia Vitale). Then the triumphal entry of Don Pedro et al from the pit with noise and excitement, followed by a lull when the villain, Don John (Robert Mountford) enters. 

The awkwardness of this meeting is very effective. When the family leave to plan a party, there is lively banter among Don Pedro (Ryan Donaldson), Benedict (Ekow Quartey) and Claudio (Adam Wadsworth) about love and marriage with Don Pedro devising a plan to win Hero’s hand in the name of Claudio during the impending revels. His brother, overhearing this and declaring himself ‘a plain-dealing villain’, plots with his henchmen Borachio (Calum Callaghan) and Conrade (Dharmesh Patel) to ruin the plan.

Benedict and Beatrice sharpen their wits at each others expense, both declaring that love and marriage the last thing on their mind, and avow a total lack of interest in the opposite sex. 

Benedict, a powerful presence on the stage, soliloquises on the same theme and has here – and throughout the play – very pleasing interactions with the audience. This engagement with the crowd is amusingly developed by several characters throughout the performance.

Gloriously-costumed revels ensue, choreographed with humour and skill and accompanied by talented musicians. Don Pedro’s ploy succeeds and Hero’s hand is given to Claudio by her father, Leonates (John Lightbody). 

The first act closes with Claudio all set up for his wedding, a plot developing to make Benedict fall in love with Beatrice – seemingly an impossible task, but amongst all this light-hearted preparation and anticipation the audience knows that a scheme to defame Hero has been carried out. 

After the interval and a hilarious scene with Dogberry (Jonnie Broadbent) and Verges (Colm Gormley) there is a very sudden and sombre change of tone. It is hard for a modern audience to take the ease with which the suave bastard Don John can convince Claudio and Don Pedro and then, Leontes, of the previously admired Hero’s sudden fall from grace but it is a small price to pay and cannot dim the total enjoyment or take away from the excellence of the performances of the whole company. 

It is hard to pick out any one actor for particular mention but Jonnie Broadbent, John Lightbody, Ekow Quartey and Amalio Vitale produced several outstanding moments.

Set design was perfect, from the colourful musical opening of a sunlit, orange strewn and bedecked stage with blue pillars both holding balconies, which were cleverly used throughout the play. 

Vivid costumes maintained the blue and orange theme and the first half is full of music, laughter, and witty repartee. The returning warriors were greeted lavishly with feasting and the daughters happily (eventually) given in marriage. The generosity of Leonates and the closeness of the soldiers, Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedict is nicely developed and the interaction between Beatrice and Benedict is beautifully handled. 

Praise must go to director Sean Holmes for his skilful management of the intricate plot and the clarity of the performances. Perhaps the revels were a little too long, but weren’t they fun!

Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 until 24th August. 7.30pm; 2pm matinees. Admission: £5 – £75.



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