The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) team up with Chichester Festival theatre to put on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. It has all the recipes for success: villains, romance, fake deaths, misunderstandings and much more.
Despite there being two love stories, one couple really steal the limelight. That is of course, Benedict and Beatrice, who are both equally quick witted and far too stubborn to admit their love. This results in a comic plan by the other characters to fool them into thinking the other has declared their love, thus allowing them to declare their love face to face without pride getting in the way.
Edward Bennet as Benedick and Lisa Dillion as Beatrice are sublime in their roles. Their characters have real emotional depth, which has you rooting for their love to work out. Bennet really has a flair for comedy, leaving the audience in fits of laughter, especially when he is hiding (without success) behind the Christmas tree.
The drama revolves around the love between Claudio and Hero. These two are the targets of a villainous plan to prevent their marriage by the treacherous Don John. This leads to the shaming of Hero, who is an innocent party, yet this is overlooked due to Don John’s claims. This is a particularly poignant scene, as resonates with the unfortunately common notion that female voices are overlooked in favour of males.
The staging really is remarkable, beginning with the magnificent manor house, which resembles Downton Abbey, and effortlessly changes throughout the play. You are taken around the grounds, into the various rooms and even to the local police office. The seamless transitions only added to the exceptionally polished performance.
One of the factors that most caught my attention was the use of music. Nigel Hess composed the music, which aided the audience in being immersed in post-war England. The catchy ditties made you want to dance and sing along, not least as the play ended in a fabulous dance number. It really had me wishing for a Shakespeare musical.
Much Ado About Nothing was a sensation, if only for the fact it leaves the audience in such a merry mood. You did need to concentrate, as with any Shakespeare play, but RSC have done a tremendous job in making Shakespeare more accessible, which I cannot praise highly enough.
Much Ado is not the only play being performed by RSC at the Opera House or on their tour. It is being performed in junction with Love’s Labour’s Lost. The plays can be enjoyed separately or together as share the same cast. Love’s Labour’s Lost is set pre-war and Much Ado About Nothing or Love’s Labour’s Won follows after, set post-war. Love’s Labour’s Won is a supposed missing sequel that Shakespeare wrote. The theory is that the title was changed to Much Ado About Nothing, and the soldiers returning home are the same ones who left to fight in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
You can choose whether to enjoy both plays together by watching them on separate nights or not. If you have not watched any Shakespeare you should, and why not begin with one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies. RSC are outstanding once again with this hilarious version of Much Ado About Nothing.