The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Much Ado About Nothing
by Brian Clover

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever.
--- Song Act II Scene iii
Much Ado About Nothing
Joy Richardson, Lucy Campbell, Maria Gale and Yolanda Vasquez
(Photo: Sheila Burnett)
If the Olivier's Measure for Measure shows one extreme of doing Shakespeare then the Globe's Much Ado is the other. Simon McBurney wrenches his play about, like a sadistic magician at a birthday party, making obscene shapes out of toy balloons to scare the children. The Globe, on the other hand, wants the little dears to have a really nice time and take home a party bag full of candy. One sees only darkness while the other completely ignores it. One is ugly and in your face, the other is pretty and hey nonny nonny no.

Of course, Much Ado is a much lighter play than Measure for Measure. Don Pedro (Belinda Davison), having vanquished his enemies visits Messina and plays matchmaker between his friend Claudio (Ann Ogborno) and Hero (Mariah Gale), daughter of the Governor. Meanwhile Hero's cousin Beatrice (Yolanda Vasquez) lashes Benedick (Josie Lawrence) with a tongue far sharper than his sword. One couple swears to marry while the other swears never to. One woman submits to a man while the other - horror! - consistently defies one. Plainly this cannot be, and of course it isn't. By the end of the play everything is put back in its rightful place.

Any production at the Globe is a spectacle, an event in itself. The setting is unique and the costumes are gorgeous. But there should be more: tonight the viewers are less like a theatre audience than visitors to a Shakespeare museum. They're giggling, chatting, coughing and indulging in a little horseplay of their own, and good for them. They might be more attentive if the production had more zest to it, but sadly this is lacking since the direction tends to the stolid, while the comic scenes can be downright irritating. The cast's wonderful dance at the end is an intimation of how much fun this could have been. But it is only fair to point out that the crowd did seem to enjoy the evening, laughing in the right places at some of Shakespeare's feeblest gags and appreciating the slapstick. But I doubt there would be a similar reaction to such a lightweight show in any other venue.

This is olde worlde Shakespeare, doubleted and hosed and ignoring the uncomfortable elements. Don Pedro is a flawed ruler, like the Duke in Measure for Measure. He callously manipulates his subjects and hints at that he may even have used his feudal authority to sleep with Hero before her wedding - "I merely taught her how to sing and gave her back". The innocent Hero herself is denounced as a harlot. In church. On her wedding day. By her fiancé. And then, as if this were not enough, her own father repudiates her. Loyal Benedick finds he must kill his best friend. (Unaccountably this tragic moment gets the biggest laugh of the evening.) That friend is Claudio, a superficial and unattractive character who crushes the woman he claims to love in the cruellest possible way. When he thinks he has killed her he apologises at her tomb, but a few moments later he is cracking jokes and insulting her father for the crime of being old. His reward for all this is to marry a resuscitated Hero. Lucky woman! I suppose she thinks after a start like this their relationship can only improve, but we never learn her opinion.

But the implications of all this are left unexplored tonight in favour of a superficial charm and cosiness. The pain of Hero in the wedding scene is real enough, but this soon passes as we are treated to the misguided cavorting of Dogberry (Sarah Woodward)and Verges (Jules Melvin). This production has an all-woman cast, which is inevitably a statement (although, ironically, director Tamara Harvey is credited as "Master" of the Play). In reality it is hard to see that this casting gives it any particular strengths or weaknesses, beyond some strain in some voices and the fact that galligaskins can be unkind to the female figure. Since the play does ask what it means to be a man or a woman this is a missed opportunity.

The strongest part of the play is the confrontation of Beatrice and Benedick. Yolanda Vazquez and Josie Lawrence bring a necessary energy and verve to these roles that is lacking elsewhere. Each vows never to love, but these actors manage to convince us that they can be brought to it. Josie Lawrence in particular has brilliant comic gifts. Her presence, timing and Midlands accent, possibly worthy of the Bard himself, are a delight. But she also brings weight and pathos to the role when it is needed. Mark Rylance gave us a Hamlet here at the Globe that set a benchmark for a generation. But after her Benedick I would love to see Josie Lawrence's interpretation of the Dane.

The Globe Season - Much Ado About Nothing
Written by William Shakespeare
Master of Play: Tamara Harvey

Starring: Josie Lawrence
With: Penelope Beaumont, Penelope Dimond, Mariah Gale, Yolanda Vasquez, Joy Richardson, Lucy Campbell, Belinda Davison, Ann Ogbomo, Joyce Henderson, Rachel Sanders, Hannah Barrie, Gabriel Reidy, Sarah Woodward, Jules Melvin
Master of Clothing: Luca Constiglioli
Master of Properties and Hangings: Paul Burgess
Master of Historical Music: William Lyons
Master of Theatre Music: Claire van Kampen
Master of Dance: Siân Williams
Master of the Words: Giles Block
Master of Movement: Glynn MacDonald
Master of Voice: Stewart Pearce
Running time: Three hours 20 minutes with one interval.
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Booking to 25th September 2003
Reviewed by Brian Clover based on 9th June 2004 performance at the Globe, New Globe Walk London SE1 (Tube Station: London Bridge/Mansion House via Millennium Bridge)
London Theatre Walks

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook
London Sketchbook

Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
Our Review

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from