My Half-Baked Review of the Shakespeare Globe production of “Much Ado About Nothing”
The production of Much Ado About Nothing that I witnessed at Shakespeare’s Globe in London last weekend has left me reeling in a storm of iambic pentameter and modernism. Without giving a full review of the show, I wanted to make note of the brilliant choices made in this production. I’ve attended few shows that thrust me to my feet upon the resignation of the final number. Much Ado was one of those shows.
Under the direction of Matthew Dunster, the show was defiant — of traditional Shakespearean style, of society at large. And it was exuberant in its defiance. During the finale, the actors stomped heavily upon the old stomping grounds of the King’s Men, the women donning lavish fiesta dresses and the men occasionally shouting as their feet tried to keep up with the prestissimo tempo being played by the band overhead.
It was a finale I will carry with me for as long as I can recall Shakespeare. When the final note rang out, the audience leapt out of their seats (the groundlings threw up their hands), erupting with applause and firing roses at the actors. What made this production so good?
It was poignant. Set in Mexico during the revolution — a setting rarely visited in cinema or stage — it allowed festivities to commence in a place of poverty. Sans the opening of the show, we never saw the Hispanic people as poor. They were dynamic and explosive; they were romantic, infinitely entertained and entertaining.
Several incisive lines of dialogue were added, but this one cut the deepest: “If you ignore them, you’re no better than an American.” (that quote is not verbatim, but it was something close to that). Several other America-related jokes got laughs from a largely non-American audience. I tended to chuckle quietly at these jokes, rubbing my forehead as if admitting guilt on behalf of my homeland. Speaking of Americans, Dogberry, the bumbling fool of the play, was an American film director. One humorous bit of many in the show was his treatment of British English as Spanish. He unsuccessfully tried to learn “Spanish,” mispronouncing words like “favour” and nearly blurting out the C-word while trying to say “can’t” in Spanish — which, again, was just British English.
My a-ha moment came whilst taking in the music. Much Ado is my favourite Shakespeare play, and I’ve never given much thought as to what it’s missing. But I learned — through a small band and actors whose voices melted into the London air — that all these years it was missing music. Bill Barclay’s music direction was brilliant in this show. It has spoiled Shakespeare for me because I’ll never be able to sit through a music-less production of Much Ado again.
Beatriz Romilly (Beatrice) and Matthew Needham (Benedick) were playful frienemies and convincing lovers. Their performances were outstanding; and their star power cannot be overstated.
As I weave my own experience into what is now sufficiently a half-baked review of the show, I’d be remiss if I did not mention that I picked up the last ticket available for the last production of Much Ado, which was, ironically, the last show of the entire Globe season. I had no idea. I mistakenly wandered into the finale of all finales, but I’ve replayed the show so many times in my head the last few days that, in many ways, it hasn’t ended for me.
So there it is. My half-baked review. Better than saying, “It was awesome!!!” on Facebook but don’t expect to see this in the New York Times. I highly recommend this show, but, of course, its run has ended so I can’t exactly suggest going to check it out. Some pieces of beautiful art must simply vanish, I suppose. Anyhow, without further…ado (cringe) I rest my case:
“For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.”