- Colin Fraser
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
THREE AND A HALF STARS Wedding bells are ringing on the Italian Riviera, but not everyone is excited about wedding day.
STAGE COMEDY UK English #MUCHADO
Starring Katherine Parkinson, John Heffernan
Shakespeare’s eternal comedy is relocated to the Italian Riviera in this inspired adaptation by Simon Godwin. We’re mid-twentieth century and the legendary Hotel Messina is an escape for the well to do and ne’er do wells alike. When the owner’s daughter falls for a dashing soldier, wedding bells sound much to the pleasure of her family. Less impressed are the steadfastly single which number Beatrice (Katherine Parkinson) and Benedick (John Heffernan). But will Cupid have his way before the final curtain falls? Of course! But the fun is in the journey not the destination.
Parkinson (Jen from THE IT CROWD) and a Heffernan (a dorky Tom Hiddleston) are marquee names and with good reason. They’re compelling, effortlessly watchable, both command the comic stage with precision timing and both understand how much (and how little) to give in order that they don’t swamp the production. Their generosity lets the rest of the cast share the limelight and steady any imbalance their wattage might create.
Consequently, this MUCH ADO is every bit the ensemble piece and with Godwin’s tight direction, is never less than a rollicking ride. His fantasy setting, somewhere in the jazz age, somewhere in Italy is a little bit Cole Porter, a little bit Fred and Ginger. The inclusion of a live band, song and dance heightens the glamour as the story rolls from fun through darkness before solidly landing on screwball comedy. Just as Will would have wanted.
The play’s inbuilt gender war is largely overlooked as Beatrice first toys then falls in line with feminine convention, while Claudio’s vicious misogyny remains intact. It should feel dated and unwelcome but Godwin doesn’t dwell here for long. The point of the play has always been the resolution and it’s a point to which we swiftly glide on a veneer of stunningly polished midsummer comedy. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING has never been social commentary. It an entertainment, and in these most capable hands, a first rate entertainment at that.