Known as one of Shakespeare’s wittiest comedies, Much Ado About Nothing is a classic: boy knows girl of old, girl thinks boy is dim-witted and tedious, boy thinks girl is a malicious and cruel, friends think they’d be perfect for each other save for their own egos and so launch a plan to unite them. Hilarity ensues. It’s no wonder this tale of two egos has made it into this season’s Globe line-up: it’s fast-paced, romantic and, when performed well, heartfelt and tragic in places.
It is assumed that a Globe cast will be consummate performers but this particular production, shrunk down to fit onto a miniature Elizabethan-style arched stage is nothing short of masterful. This company of joyful actors attack Shakespeare’s immortal comedy with tenacity and deft multi-role performances that, despite the heavy showers, packed a punch.
The issue I’ve found when watching Much Ado in the past has been Hero’s portrayal as the slandered woman. Many actresses I’ve seen have portrayed her as a very young girl who, at the accusation of adultery by Claudio, sputters her protestations and becomes broken. Gemma Lawrence’s Hero, however, is refreshingly fiery and her portrayal of the young girl comes across not so much naive and simpering as joyful and full of life. Emma Pallant’s Beatrice is similarly refreshing, the character’s quick-wit is obvious and Pallant’s performance is one of wicked enjoyment at the expense of her verbal sparring-partner Benedict. Both Simon Bubb’s Benedict and Pallant’s Beatrice achieve something which Much Ado has failed to do in my previous experience and that is to genuinely move me. Pallant’s portrayal of Beatrice’s heartbreak at her cousin’s slander is so full of anger and disbelief that I found myself moved to tears, as I was at Bubb’s earnest declaration to adhere to Beatrice’s wishes. Joy Richardson also deserves a mention for her many roles in this production; she is an utter joy and entirely believable in all four of her characters.
This production of Much Ado About Nothing may be the best I’ve seen to date and, with the inclusion of John Barber’s original musical accompaniment, is an utter triumph. I left the gardens with a smile of my face that lasted hours, go and see it the moment you can!
Much Ado About Nothing played as part of the Brighton Festival