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Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Hardly a review. A paean of praise, exaltation and delight. My sincere apologies for a total loss of all critical faculties caused by this wonderful evening of theatre.

Published on May 31st 2006.


Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Hardly a review. A paean of praise, exaltation and delight. My sincere apologies for a total loss of all critical faculties caused by this wonderful evening of theatre. No dissection of plot, little in the way of deep philosophical musing. An ode to joy.

Over the decades The Royal Shakespeare Company has given me many wonderful nights. Very few compare to this one. I particularly remember an evening in April 1982 when I saw the most wonderful production of this play with Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusack. It was designed by Ralph Koltai, with mellifluous music by Nigel Hess and was masterfully directed by Terry Hands. Over the last 40 years the RSC has done many fine “Much Ado’s” but until this one nothing better.

At last the RSC has equalled and perhaps even surpassed my revisionist memory. Marianne Elliott (with strong Royal Exchange connections) has performed such a miracle. Imagine the Bard, Beatrice and Benedick meeting in the Buena Vista Social Club and you have a small indication of the experience which awaits you in the wonderful Swan Theatre.

Set in an early 1950’s decadent Cuba, prior to the arrival of Fidel Castro, the music, the designs and the settings combine perfectly.

Tamsin Grieg was born to play Beatrice. She is cynical, intelligent, witty, and in my view the woman with the most intellect in the whole Shakespearean canon. Ms Grieg delights the eye whenever she is on stage. In this performance it becomes clear that a classical actor of great potential has been born.

Joseph Millson is a delightful foil as Benedick. He sets off the quirky relationship between him and Beatrice perfectly. The couple dominate the stage as they dominate the play. They have the support of a wonderful ensemble who give a freshness and vitality to “Much Ado” which belies the fact that it was written over 400 years ago. One of Shakespeare’s contemporaries said that “he was not of an age but for all time”. This production proves it.

I suggest you are in your seats (or that you even accept any standing room availability) at least 20 minutes before it begins. You will not regret it. This is a performance of a play which you should all see and which I suggest will live in your memory forever.

I have one minor aggravation. I sat in the First Gallery, seat numbers B33 and B34. In front of me and my guest, at the front of the stage was a sign for a bar. This sign was so inconveniently placed it continuously impeded my view of the events. Perhaps something might be done about this.

The “Complete Works” season will find very great difficulty to outdo this wonderful night in Stratford.

Richard Burbage
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Until October 12th at The Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Upon Avon
Box Office 0870 609 1110 or www.rsc.org.uk

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