23 July 2011 (Mat)
Much Ado about Tennant and Tate
It wasn't until I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream by the RSC at the Barbican at the age of 14 that I realised that Shakespeare's comedies might actually be funny. Reading them off the page in the classroom I thought that the words were very pretty but they certainly weren't hilarious. The RSC changed that for me.
Much Ado About Nothing at the Wyndhams will surely do the same for anyone who feels the same as my young teenage self.
It's vibrant, fresh, funny (obv) and a genuine feel good production that is highly likely to bring a smile to even the sourest of faces.
Putting David Tennant and Catherine Tate together as Beatrice and Benedick works superbly. The chemistry they developed in Dr Who continues on the stage (so I'm told anyway as I gave up on the inexplicable plots of that series circa 1983!)
But Mr FB assures me that they made a good team on the telly and they certainly did in this Shakespeare as the comedy revolves around and between them with large dollops of well-timed slapstick in the eavesdropping scenes and fantastic timing and intonation of the lines throughout.
Tennant looks like he is clearly enjoying himself from the moment he enters in a golf buggy and donning a blonde wig and micro mini for the masked ball to the slapstick of the scene where he is tricked into thinking Beatrice loves him - the copious amounts of paint are worthy of any panto! But he also transforms superbly into a man in love - and someone that you would really want to love back!
Tate uses all her comedy talents and timing to the full to cleverly portray a woman who uses jokes as a defence against becoming emotionally detached. She teeters on the edge of looking like she might come out with an “Am I bovvered?” at any moment but thankfully she doesn't - although I'm sure that much of the audience would have howled with laughter in much the same way they did at anything remotely funny David Tennant did, be it spoken or merely a comic glance!
Director Josie Rourke has set the action in early 1980s Gibraltar where dashing Richard Gere in An Officer and A Gentlemen-esque navy officers - presumably high-spirited post-Falklands - trick B & B into falling in love.
I loved the 80s vibe, the clothes I thought I'd forgot, the characters at the masked ball from Adam Ant to Thatcher, Hero's replica Lady Di wedding dress, the music which very cleverly sounds like famous 80s tunes but aren't quite. Who'd have thought that "Sigh No More" and a "Hey Nonny Nonny" to a disco beat would actually work!
The plot, as so often in Shakespearean comedies is preposterous in parts, but the more modern setting actually makes part of it more believable than I have ever seen before.
Beatrice's cousin Hero has supposedly betrayed her fiance Claudio with another man the night before her wedding and because the action takes place mere decades ago as opposed to centuries, it allows for a raucous hen party scene which makes the whole thing more plausible, as Hero's maid, wearing her mistresses hen veil gets off with someone else at the disco!
Among the supporting cast Tom Bateman and Sarah MacRae are an attractive Claudio and Hero and John Ramm is another comic highlight as an actually funny Dogberry played as a jobsworth who thinks he's Rambo!
Sure there will be purists who will scoff and sneer but the fact is the theatre was full and the audience were enjoying themselves immensely on a day when laughter was in short supply elsewhere. It's a lot of FUN and if it gets more people to enjoy Shakespeare then that can only be a good thing!