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Theatre review: Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare's Globe)

The play was written over 400 years ago but Shakespeare has still got it

In this stripped back version, music plays a key part in setting the scene (Photo: Kim Agersten)

August 5, 2014

by Jessica Wells

The courtyard of Kronborg Castle erupted in laughter during the Shakespeare’s Globe from London performance of Much Ado About Nothing on the first night of the annual Shakespeare Festival, Hamletscenen.

The comedy, which focuses on the relationship between Claudio and Hero and the love-hate relationship between Benedick and Beatrice, started and ended on a high.

There was an abundance of jokes, comic timing and audience interaction, as there should be in all good Shakespearian comedies, but there was also an interesting, more traditional twist to it too – music.

The cast played several instruments including guitars, harpsichords, violins, and drums, as well as singing along to their tune to add a musical dimension to the play with brilliant effect.

As someone who has read many Shakespeare plays but has never got round to reading Much Ado About Nothing, I was afraid that I would fail to understand the plot line or the jokes.

I could not have been more wrong as the cast, especially Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant, who played Benedick and Beatrice, pulled off their characters without a fault and the story with perfect execution.

With only eight performers, the play was stripped back to its roots, with minimal setting and props.

The courtyard of Hamlet’s castle provided a historical setting in its own right and the acoustic of the courtyard definitely played into the success of the performance.

The props, whilst minimal, were used brilliantly – just be careful of your bags if you sit in the front row as you might get a bit wet thanks to a certain watery prank!

Although the play is mostly a comedy, it does have a darker, more serious side to it. When this part of the play was performed, you could hear a pin drop in the courtyard.

The cast captivated their audience and we were led to believe every emotion and every measure of sadness in their characters – a feat that is highly commendable.

It is no surprise then that when the play came to an end, the courtyard echoed with the applause and the rumbling of feet – the perfect way for Hamletscenen and Much Ado About Nothing in Helsingør to begin.

The only downside to the evening was the limited view of the subtitles from the front row of the seating. For those that had paid for front row seats, but were not confident in understanding Shakespearian English, they could not see the subtitles and were not offered the opportunity to switch seats if they needed to.

Even though Much Ado About Nothing was written over 400 years ago, it is still being performed with flair today, especially when executed by the cast at the Globe. 

Much Ado About Nothing

Hamletscenen, Aug 1 – 10, Kronborg Castle, Helsingør

5/5 Stars

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