“Much Ado About Nothing” brought laughter and trauma from the stage to mingle with the audience. The light comedy pieces the plot together perfectly with an ultimate climax that was directed brilliantly by George Doran, who really has outdone himself this time.
Doran is one of the more traditional directors in the Royal Shakespeare Company. The outcome of this is always a good play but at times can be a little bland and uninventive.
Fortunately Doran saves this with his humerous interpretations, which fill the audience with a great deal of laughs. However there seems to be a price of this humour when the darkness of the play is lost as Beatrice fails to impress as she ineffectively commands Benedick to “Kill Claudio!”
Fortunately Doran has excelled himself with his brilliantly directed dramatically gripping wedding scene where Claudio brutally denounces Hero. This is therefore held in your mind and saves negative doubts about scenes later on in the play.
As this is a comedy Doran has managed to lighten the shadowy drama of the play but still managed to allow a definite contrast between comedy and tragedy, which gives a more light-hearted feel to the play.
Designer Stephen Brimson Lewis has made a delightful Sicilian piazza. The play is set in the mid 1930’s and they have created the perfect costumes to compliment the play and set. They dressed the “baddies” as Blackshirts and the rest of Doran’s cast in flowing frocks and other such suitable clothing to allow an obvious contrast. However you do realise Beatrice is the only female dressed in trousers to allow her masculinity to show through.
The choice of actors couldn’t have been better, in the cast almost instantly Benedick, Don Pedro and Leonato stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
Nicholas Le Prevost plays Benedick, “Jester” to the Prince and part of the comedic couple. He is completely against love and marriage to all extents, and this one detail manages to set his plot with Beatrice perfectly. Le Prevost excels himself, as the complicated plot slowly unfolds he just gets better and better. He seems to almost pull the audience onto the stage, making each situation more and more believable with every word.
Le Prevost proved himself an actor as he played Benedick’s confused character perfectly. His relationship with the rest of the cast was clearly seen.
Le Prevost had his faults mind. He was brilliant as a comedian and played a drunkard. He slurred his words to create comedy, but sadly this was too forced and Le Prevost at times lost almost all diction.
Benedick was very amusing and had a great connection with the audience. However there wasn’t such a connection between Le Prevost and Walters (Beatrice). This unfortunately managed to take humour away from the catty fights between the two characters creating a sense of disappointment in the audience.
Beatrice, who was played by Harriet Walter, I felt was rather disappointing. Both Benedick and Beatrice seemed too old but this affected Beatrice more so because of the age difference between her and Hero.
Walter over exaggerated and this led her to be more masculine than I felt necessary. I found her continuous fidgeting distracting and although she was very impressive and emotionally touching when all alone she declares, “Benedick love on, I will requite thee!” this genius lacked in most scenes. The couple just didn’t seem to relate with one another and this lead to questions such as, “Do they really love each other?”
On the other hand we had Claudio and Hero played by John Hopkins and Kirsten Parker. This romantic couple gelled together perfectly and had the exact image one would expect of a romantic Shakespearean couple. Hopkins had brilliant stage presence and seemed to get on well with the rest of the cast, even if his relationship with Don Pedro did seem a little too close.
Hopkins showed an array of emotions throughout the play and he excelled even himself in the epitaph scene. However I don’t feel Claudio, in this production, was an honest or serious lover. It almost seemed as if he was destined to fail as a husband.
On the other hand we had Kirsten Parker who played the virginal Hero. When acting on stage with Hopkins she was brilliant, but at other times she seemed to just speak her words rather than act them. Parker had the perfect feminine image for Hero but when acting didn’t seem to come over as virginal or innocent as I feel she should have.
Leonato and Don John were very strong characters. Gary Woldhorn who played Leonato provided admirable comic support and was superb in the orchard scene. He provided a ripe and original performance with the perfected change from witty to serious character. Woldhorn’s most memorable quote was “Neighbour you are tedious” said in an exaggerated, monotonous tone that brought humour to the play.
Don Pedro, played by Clive Wood, was also first rate support for the main cast. His interpretation of Don Pedro was wonderfully original and amusingly camp, yet a little strange at times but his play on the word “Hero” was brilliantly spoken and made very memorable.
Other strong support actors were Trevor Martin (Antonio), John Killoran (Borrachio) and Sarah Ball (Margaret). All of these three helped create humour and drama at the appropriate times yet still managing not to take the focus away from the main plot and characters.
Unfortunately there were also the weaker characters.
Dogberry in the play is described as “too cunning to be understood.” This line is also appropriate for the actor. He was speaking well-written, cunningly funny lines, but he mumbled and spoke so fast he couldn’t be understood.
Another weak link in the chain of actors I felt was Stephen Campbell-Moore who played Don John. He made this character appear almost too melancholy and sinister.
“Much Ado About Nothing” was well directed but lacked that little something in certain areas. On the whole it was good but in places was a little bland. The ending of the play was well rounded and well performed. The chemistry between actors was shown and so was the light-heartedness of the play. On the whole it was a well performed and directed Shakespearean play.
This has always been one of Shakespeare’s amazing scripts and the direction and several of the characters did it justice but a few of the actors could have been better than they were. Doran’s ideas were superb and he fulfilled his job as director well, allowing humour to shine through between the confusion and trauma.