uch Ado About Nothing
has been packing them in both sides of the river this summer, and having seen the Tennant & Tate
version early on in its run I left the Globe's one as late as possible - in fact I have a ticket for a performance at the end of the month. But I haven't seen Eve Best on stage since her breakthrough in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore
and wanted to see her play Beatrice, which she won't be doing for the full run due to other commitments. So I also got myself a ticket for tonight's performance when one became available (despite the bigger names in the West End, this production has more or less sold out as well.)
Designer Mike Britton has given a Middle Eastern flavour to proceedings and four little paddling pools stand out on the thrust (with added splashes tonight, as it rained for most of the second half.) Best is worth the extra trip, a loveably enthusiastic, flailing Beatrice who, like Charles Edwards' Benedick, makes full use of the Globe's opportunities for confiding in the audience. But director Jeremy Herrin has made a real effort to restore the balance of the stories, Much Ado
so often becoming all about what is essentially the B plot of Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, he can't do much about the fact that Hero (Ony Uhiara) is not so much underwritten as barely there, but with Big Favourite Round These Parts Philip Cumbus as Claudio, he's gone a long way to making that highly problematic character work. Part of it is in making him seem impetuous and immature but most importantly he's shown as not being in control of his own life (after all it's not just Don John manipulating his love life; Don Pedro woos Hero on his behalf in the first place.) Having gone from love at first sight, to complicated love plot, to thinking his friend's trying to steal the girl he likes, Cumbus very clearly shows us that Claudio suddenly finds himself about to marry a girl he's never spoken to, with little or no idea of how that happened. Suddenly his wild mood swings throughout the play make a lot more sense.
This is a production with a lot of big laughs although while Herrin has gone to a lot of effort to make Dogberry work I'm still not convinced it's worth it - I never warmed to Paul Hunter's brand of schtick and I can't help feeling that I prefer Josie Rourke's approach, which seemed to be that if you ignore Dogberry he might go away (which is actually most of the characters' approach to him as well.) Things drag a bit around Act 4 but in both the humour and the dramatic elements this is for the most part a very successful Much Ado
, and while I've personally found the Globe's "The Word Is God" season to be a bit lacklustre compared to last year's "Kings and Rogues," this production easily stands above the rest of this year's shows that I've seen so far.Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare is in repertory until the 1st of October (Eve Best appears until the 10th of September) at Shakespeare's Globe.