Thursday, 13 August 2015

Re-review: Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare's Globe & tour)

Having become a bit of a Globe completist in recent years, I've tended to return to its small-scale touring productions anyway, but it was especially inevitable I'd want to see Max Webster's fresh take on Much Ado About Nothing again, which made it into my Top Ten shows of 2014, and was my joint favourite Shakespeare of the year. You can read my original review here; for the 2015 tour three of the original cast of eight have returned: Robert Pickavance's Leonato, Jim Kitson's Don Pedro, and the stalwart of these touring comedies, Emma Pallant's superbly acidic Beatrice. Sadly the original #SexyBenedick Simon Bubb hasn't returned, but Christopher Harper gives Benedick a geeky edge that contrasts well with Pallant's po-faced deliveries. In any case, the addition of Aaron Anthony as Claudio (tonight dealing well with an epaulette-based mishap) means the show's not short on eye-candy.

Casting aside, not much has changed - this still remains not only a very funny Much Ado but one that seems to have found fresh ways to look at almost every character, scene and even line in the play, and tonight's audience certainly seemed to agree.

The play's dark side is also handled well, although it remains problematic - for all the stick that Claudio (rightly) gets, I do think Leonato gets away scot-free with the fact that he also instantly believes the slanders on Hero, and his reaction is the biggest contribution to her breakdown. (Particularly notable tonight, as in an otherwise well-acted production Pickavance goes weirdly OTT in that scene; it's the sort of performance I suspect might have been getting bigger with each performance, and Christopher said all it needed was a tree branch to turn into John Cleese attacking a car.)

That aside this remains a solid recommendation whether at the Globe or as it continues its tour; if nothing else, I think Pallant is the first Beatrice I've seen to spot the "civil oranges" pun.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare is booking in repertory until the 16th of August, and again from the 7th to the 13th of September at Shakespeare's Globe; continuing on tour to Ystad, Cambridge, Richmond, Porthcurno and Leicester.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes including interval.

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