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The Theatreguide.London Review

Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare's Globe  May-October 2022

It is 1945 Italy in the Globe Theatre’s production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Lucy Bailey. A group of women are waiting for the return of partisans fighting in a terrible war. They sing movingly as the fighters arrive.

It is a distinctive start to a clear entertaining performance in which Lucy Phelps is a restless lively Beatrice. But if war and issues of gender have been signposted by the opening, they have little place in what follows.

Instead, there’s lots of knockabout fun with food fights, with Claudio (Patrick Osborne) and Benedict (Ralph Davis ) chucking drinks over each other, with the pair of them rolling around the floor with Don Pedro (Ferdy Roberts).

And, inevitably, there are the silly visual jokes of first Benedick and later Beatrice trying to hide as they listen to other characters talk about them. There is also audience participation in which Dogberry’s incompetent police arrest two members of the audience by mistake.

Some of the fun involves the governor Leonato who, along with his brother Antonio, have in this production become Leonata (Katy Stephens) the mother of Hero and her sister Antonia (Joanne Howarth). 

There are darker moments that include the public shaming of Hero (Nadi Kemp-Sayfi) during the wedding ceremony which prompts gasps from many in the audience and later in an echo of Romeo and Juliet, as Claudio spends the night alone in her supposed tomb mourning her loss.

But such fleeting occasions are rare in a production that gives us a clear buoyant performance throughout the two hours forty-five-minute running time.

Keith McKenna

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Review of Much Ado About Nothing - Globe Theatre 2022

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