Rose Theatre, Kingston – until 6 May 2018
This fun if barmy production takes a while to settle down but when it does allows the audience to have a great time.
Who knew the Mafia could provide such a great context for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing? Thanks to Simon Dormandy’s hilariously chaotic production, the play does manage to take on new meaning by exploring it in contemporary Italy where the rule of the Mafia allows the inflexible hierarchy within the play to be highlighted.
While initially the production seems a little bit uncertain of itself, with the opening scenes of the production needing to be sharpened (the opening monologue in which the audiences are shown around the hotel feels a bit odd in context with the rest of the production), it soon finds its confidence with the help of some brilliant moments of physical comedy and brilliant characterisations from the cast.
It has to be said that the look of the production is also impressive, with Naomi Dawson’s set design impressively filling the Rose Theatre’s expansive space to make the audience feel as close to the action as possible. It is sophisticated and luxurious, transforming to different parts of the hotel with ease.
Throughout the production, Dormandy is able to highlight the themes of power and manipulation, keeping them consistently in the mind of the audiences – even if done in the light-hearted way when Beatrice and Benedick are falsely led to believe each loves the other, leading to some hilarious comical moments (some of it physical). It is light and breezy throughout. By being influenced by the Mafia for the production, Dormandy heightens the sense of control and influence that the likes of Don Pedro have on the characters and situations.
But the production also needs some strong personalities to make the characters really come to life. Mel Giedroyc as Beatrice really uses her comic charm with additional sharpness that suits the character’s personality – particularly noted in her first confrontation of Benedick. But away from the comedy she is suitably spirited as her defence of Hero reveals and is endearing to watch. Giedroyc is well matched with John Hopkins as Benedick, both able to spark each other’s characters well. Hopkins makes for a delightful Benedick, with a great sense of comic timing (I have never seen someone fall off a chair so convincingly) as seen during the scene in which he is manipulated to believing that Beatrice is in love with him.
Elsewhere, Kate Lamb makes for a charming and delightful Hero – the rawness of her performance as she claims she hasn’t been unfaithful to Claudio is truly heart wrenching. Calam Lynch (making his professional theatre debut) perhaps needs a bit more time to grow into the role of Claudio as he doesn’t quite convince the depth of his love and devotion to Hero.
But overall, this is a light and entertaining production of Much Ado About Nothing that just needs some more focus in some scenes to keep the pace flowing better. Worth a visit.