Review: Much Ado About Nothing

4 star rating
With dancing, singing and able acting from a multi-talented Anglo-French cast, this production encapsulates enough entertainment value to make for a fun and appealing evening's viewing.
Much Ado About Nothing on tour and at Gray's Inn Hall

Image: Antic Disposition

Closes here: Saturday 1 September 2018

William Shakespeare

Nick Barstow

Ben Horslen and John Risebero


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.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Saturday 25 August 2018
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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.

Much Ado About Nothing at Gray's Inn Hall

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.

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