The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing

Theatre purists often snort with derision when stars of the small and silver screen grace the stages of the West End. But why should they? I’ve seen great productions such as This Is Our Youth with Matt Damon, Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix and not so great with Phil Jupitus in Hairspray. That’s the nature of theatre though and everyone is allowed their own point of view.

In January I was one of many who spent hours trying to buy tickets online for this new production of Much Ado About Nothing. My patience paid off and I managed to bag two tickets.

The cast is led by BBC faves; Catherine Tate and David Tennant and their larger than life characters; Beatrice and Benedick – the antagonistic lovebirds. Both translate brilliantly from the small screen and fill the stage with a huge presence and the sound of laughter.

The set was rather like something I would expect to see at The National – a minimalist revolving stage with central pillars which both defined the look and feel of Messina but also served to offer two separate scenes, the all-important fore and background, the necessary mechanic for comedic drama.
The floor and air space were well utilised and the sideshow of painters provided a great distraction; in one scene Catherine Tate was elevated repeatedly skywards as she overheard a conversation, her journeys propelled by the hapless painters move up and down while they painted pillars. And then David Tennant, in a true as true can be bout of slapstick, managed to absent mindedly paint himself with whitewash, much to everyone’s amusement.

Two things really stood out for me; the Royal family parodies and the 80s inspired dancing. There were more than a few nods to Adam Ant and Wham and I felt that the production was let down by not using the original songs and the muzak inspired versions (possibly the production team did not want to pay royalties) of these 80s hits let things down by being tangential rather than on the money. That said, the wardrobes were great, especially the men in their floppy pirate shirts and leather jeans and tukka boots. I especially liked Hero’s wedding dress and the Princess Diana mask she donned for one of the parties.

So what to expect? There’s an instant recognition of both Catherine Tate and David Tennant as spectacular TV icons but what they do is transcend the genre we are accustomed to seeing them in and they shine on stage without putting the rest of the company in the shadows. I would definitely see this again. I was surprised that the language of Shakespeare truly stood the test of time and there was a lot of fun to be had throughout the whole production.

Shakespeare competes with many of our favourite pop stars and films now appearing in the West End; Think Queen (We Will Rock You), Grease, Priscilla and so on. But the enduring sprit of Shakespeare is an inspiration in itself, and I’m glad that the big stars of the BBC are bringing audiences in their droves back to the Bard.

So that’s my opinion. And what of Miniminx? She was after all the beneficiary of tickets due to a post SATs celebration – she enjoyed it, but preferred King Lear. Now that’s quite something in itself.

Here’s some video stuff I found about the show.

David Tennant (Benedick)
Catherine Tate (Beatrice)
Tom Bateman (Claudio)
Alex Beckett (Borachio)
Joshua Berg (Titus)
Jonathan Coy (Leonato)
Anna Farnworth (Innogen)
Mike Grady (Verges)
Clive Hayward (Hugh Oatcake/Friar Francis)
Derek Howard (Angelo)
Kathryn Hunt (Ursula)
Adam James (Don Pedro)
Lee Knight (Conrade)
Elliot Levey (Don John)
Nicholas Lumley (George Seacole)
Sarah MacRae (Hero)
John Ramm (Dogberry)
Enzo Squillino Junior (Balthasar/Sexton)
Leo Staar (Messenger)
Natalie Thomas (Margaret)
Hannah Warren-Green (Maria)

Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Josie Rourke
Producer: Sonia Friedman Productions

Show info:

Two young lovers Claudio and Hero are to be married imminently but the devious scheming of a resentful Prince looks set to thwart the nuptials.

Meanwhile, marriage seems inconceivable for reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick whose endless witty sparring threatens to keep them apart forever.

Directed by Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s great plays and reminds us all of the failings and triumphs of the human condition in our never ending search for perfect love.

Previews from 16th May 2011
Opening night 1st June 2011
Booking through until 1st September 2011

Audience: Much Ado About Nothing is suitable for audiences aged 8 and above

Run time: tba

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