What do you do with a play like Much Ado About Nothing? It’s been performed countless times before – there’s even another production playing this summer in London, at The Globe. At the National Theatre we have Simon Godwin’s opulent production; set in an Art Deco-style Sicilian hotel complete with a resident swing band, we’re treated to singing, dancing and some wonderful costumes. It’s a rather decadent sight to behold, with a gorgeous colour palette and some impressive choreography; purists may baulk but this is a wonderfully entertaining update.
For the uninitiated, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays – with a plot full of comedic turns, a little drama, a sprinkling of conceit and some cases of mistaken identity. This rendition really dials up the laughs with numerous moments of brilliant physical comedy – many of the most enjoyable scenes employ slapstick routines, which we’re not normally huge fans of, but it’s all so carefully choreographed and perfectly executed that it’s a delight to watch.
It’s a play with multiple substantial roles so there’s not really an obvious lead – it feels like an ensemble performance and this is a great team effort. We warmed to John Heffernan as Benedick, who is particularly entertaining in a scene involving a gelato cart; Katherine Parkinson impresses in the role of Beatrice. In a supporting role, David Fynn is superb as the oafish Dogberry, often stealing the scene with his implausibly silly behaviour choices. In fact, the ‘watch’ that he leads – here reimagined as the hotel’s security staff – are all strong in roles that have the potential to grate.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening with Much Ado About Nothing. It’s an amusing update of one of Shakespeare’s more entertaining comedies, full of song and dance numbers, and it’s all very visually appealing. It’s a frothy, breezy treat of a show – perfect for a warm summer’s evening.
GAY TIMES gives Much Ado About Nothing – 4/5
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