Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Globe

(2004)

Review by Philip Fisher

The second play in the Globe's Season of Star-Crossed Lovers welcomes back the women's company. Last year, there were mixed responses to their Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew.

The third attempt brings to mind Samuel Johnson's comment "a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all".

While the casting of women for all parts (including the musicians) is novel, it does begin to smack of affectation and proving a point. To avoid accusations of sexism, it is important to emphasise that all-male casting is open to identical criticism.

Under excellent Master (or should that be Mistress?) of Play, Tamara Harvey, the audience has a whale of a time. Their response at the end was rapturous, with much whistling and whooping, so the gender bending becomes an irrelevance.

For some reason, the only parts in which the ladies struggled for credibility were those of the old men. This should not detract from a good performance from Penelope Beaumont as Leonato.

Miss Harvey ensures that the play races along and she has a wonderful feel for the ridiculous and a mischievous sense of humour. In particular, she really delights in jokes, both verbal and physical. She also requires a good element of interplay with the audience - always a good idea at The Globe.

This lightness can be at the expense of certain elements of the plot. The back-story of a war and the fact that so many of the men are soldiers are subsumed.