One of the most famous of Shakespeare’s comedies, Much Ado About Nothing is a story of love and jealousy, friendship and betrayal. The trick of noting, or overhearing and misinterpretation, makes the basis for two major storylines in the play. In one, perky Benedick and Beatrice are brought together by gossip intended for them. In the other, Claudio rejects his bride Hero at the altar as he erroneously believes that she has been unfaithful.
Director, Elizabeth Freestone works with the original text of the play but introduces some modern elements. So, her characters can easily get out their smartphones and leisurely text one another, or they dress up as superheroes for the masquerade party. We watch how Superman and Spiderman get into plotting and joking on Supergirl and Ninja Turtle. These moments look rather odd and disturbing. Modernisation of such a play could be done better, the scenes do not add much to the story but feel confusing and unsettling next to texts from the Bard.
The rest of the show feels well balanced. We had enough time to understand characters and their relations, conflicts and their motivations. There’s a lot of action and plenty of musical mini-intermissions. However, the acting felt unnatural in some scenes with voices raised too high and gestures going to big. What looked natural for the roles of Beatrice (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Benedick (Geoffrey Lumb), seemed weirdly exaggerated from all other characters.
The sound and light design of production is creative and engaging. We see the stage expanded into the stalls, making the audience part of the action in some scenes. Characters often address the room with some rhetorical questions and do not hesitate to respond directly to those who dare to provide them with answers. Costume design felt lacking, inspired by army uniforms from different countries and forces, and it looked predictable and boring, especially on civil characters.
Overall, Much Ado About Nothing is a classic Shakespeare production with a little modern twist. There are definitely people who will love it and those who will hate it. Check it out if you love Shakespeare. But beware of this production if you struggle to sit through almost 3 hours of old British language and predictable plot twists.
Much Ado About Nothing is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 23rd November 2019.
Main Image Credit: Mark Douet