Review: Much Ado About Nothing
Image: Antic Disposition
Leonato, Governor of Messina - Chris Hespel
Hero, Leonato's daughter - Floriane Andersen
Béatrice, Leonato's niece - Chiraz Aïch
Margaret, a maid attending on Hero - Molly Miles
Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon - Theo Landey
Don John, his bastard brother - Alfie Webster
Benedick, an officer - Nicholas Osmond
Claudio, an officer - Alexander Varey
Borachio, a soldier - Tommy Burgess
Dogberry, Constable of the Watch - Louis Bernard
Verges, his deputy - Scott Brooks
Pierre - Nicholas Osmond
Georges - Alfie Webster
Hugues - Theo Landey
Friar Francis - Louis Bernard
Sexton - Alfie Webster
Set in a sun-drenched French village celebrating the new peace of 1945, Antic Disposition's Much Ado About Nothing draws its inspiration from the beloved films of French comic genius Jacques Tati (Jour de fête; Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot; Mon Oncle).
Combining the verbal fireworks of Shakespeare's wittiest play with sharp physical comedy, this production is set to a score of live music and songs of the period.
For this version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Antic Disposition transfer proceedings to a small village in rural France.
Furthermore, the time period gets moved to the summer of 1945, just after peace has settled on a war-torn Europe.
Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, and his several soldiers, all fetch-up in British military uniforms from the Second World War.
That feels like a bit of a pinch in terms of what Shakespeare's text is telling us, so purists might find the dramatic setting a little unsettling.
But there's more to the production that does provide a real treat - this version of the Bard's play (written around 1598) is re-enacted in one of London's most historic venues - Gray's Inn Hall, which dates back to the 1550s in its present shape and size.
Cast of Much Ado About Nothing - Antic Disposition
Though there's certainly a marked contrast between the time setting and the venue itself, somehow it seems to fix the play in a historical context - and watching a play in this magnificent hall (which needed rebuilding significantly after the blitz of the Second World War) is a real joy on its own account and makes the play worth seeing if only to experience it in this wonderful location.
Much Ado About Nothing is a bit of a mixed bag from an emotional point of view, being a concoction of blatant comedy sitting alongside some rather tense moments when a young woman is maligned and wrongly accused just before her wedding.
Directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero jointly take charge, drawing on an Anglo-French cast of actor musicians who ably manage the emotional gear changes.
The comic flavouring here is styled after the work of comedian and mime, Jacques Tati.
That results in business where characters like Scott Brooks' dullard Verges gets entwined in bunting, and Louis Bernard's Dogberry artistically swirls his satchel around his body.
Though Tati himself was regularly able to generate waves of convulsive laughter with his on-screen antics, the comedy here doesn't always work as impressively - the scene with the Watch at the beginning of the second half being a little uninspiring and bland.
But elsewhere there is ample comic silliness and Messrs Horslen and Risebero's production feels a diligently produced and seamless whole which makes good use of the elongated acting area provided by the traverse set-up.
And with splendid dancing, lovely singing and able acting from a multi-talented and impressive cast the show encapsulates more than enough entertainment value to make for a fun and appealing evening, especially given the grand nature of the venue.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Gray's Inn Hall
Our show listing for Much Ado About Nothing
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