Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare
Rose Theatre with Granville & Parham Productions and Antic Face
Rose Theatre, Kingston

Much Ado About Nothing Credit: Mark Douet
Mel Giedroyc (Beatrice), Kate Lamb (Hero) and Katherine Toy Credit: Mark Douet
Calam Lynch (Claudio) and Kate Lamb (Hero) Credit: Mark Douet

This is a big budget show to celebrate the 10-year anniversary at the Rose and the gamble has certainly paid off. The Rose has pulled in the talent, a large cast and even got celebrity appeal with Mel Giedroyc of Bake Off fame as Beatrice.

The action jets to a luxury Spa Hotel, Messina in the heart of the modern Sicilain Mafia world. Paul Pyant’s lighting brings out the sunshine on designer Naomi Dawson’s clean lines and the bright whites of her gloriously conceived hotel design. We have a bedroom on the upper balcony, a terrace thrust into the pit and a foyer behind big glass doors.

The transformation is very effective and Simon Dorman’s (director) concept fits Shakespeare’s text nicely. A story which is effectively a rom-com with some darker twists, Dorman is excellent at dialling up the ‘com’, and at the reviewed performance the laughter repeatedly swept across the auditorium.

Dorman has employed plenty of slapstick physical comedy, at times amping up the action to Benidorm-style stupidity and stereotypes, but it does keep this comedy fizzing with life. The action unfolds with Don Pedro arriving from the war (here mafia battles) to spend a few days relaxing at the hotel. We are in testosterone territory; Don Pedro is surrounded by bodyguards and plenty of guns. Dorman brings out the Shakespearian criticism of patriarchal society to the fore, though this is a theme which sadly loses its bite throughout the evening.

There are some wonderful performances here—the star of the show has to be John Hopkins as Benedict, whose witty wordplay with Beatrice trips off the tongue with such shaping that one instantly forgets we are listening to Shakespearian English.

He is matched by Mel Giedroyc as Beatrice, who plays an amped-up version of her Mel and Sue persona, with plenty of hilarious faces to audience and funny walks. It’s a character we already recognise, but it works, and Giedroyc proves she can act as well as present.

Our other two lovers, the shamed Hero and her Claudio, make a nice counterpoint to our skittish Benedict and Beatrice. Calam Lynch (Claudio) makes his professional debut with aplomb, starting off as a lovesick young man before reverting to his mafia persona, a volatile and violent accuser. Kate Lamb (of Call The Midwife fame) brings out Hero’s rightful anger and contempt at her attack and the near hysteria of being accused.

Dorman has thrust plenty of ideas into this Shakespearian drama, which at times fall a little flat (tai chi obsessed Dogberry?) but overall has sculpted an energetic and entertaining production. A talented cast turn up the voltage with high energy performances and plenty of physical comedy. This is a great show to celebrate ten years at the Rose.

Reviewer: Louise Lewis