Much Ado About Nothing at the Lyttelton Theater
His name is after all A lot of noise for nothing, so if we come away thinking that not much happened, did the production live up to the title of the play? This version isn’t always easy to follow – I’m referring specifically to Scene I of Act IV, in which many of the characters start yelling at each other and it’s not clear (at least to me) what all these cries were meant to accomplish. It was almost like being in a crowded bar where everyone has to speak louder to be heard, which rushes in even more volume.
It also doesn’t help that, to a greater extent in the first half but also in the second, Katherine Parkinson’s Beatrice tends to rush into her lines, rather than allow the comedy of Shakespeare’s text to take really life. Rather, the humor largely comes from facial expressions, and this is not a witty Beatrice, but rather a frustrated one who would rather be somewhere else. Here, Antonia (Wendy Kweh) and Leonato (an assured Rufus Wright) are the managers of the Hotel Messina – one of this production’s many attempts to bring the play into a more modern era.
The set (Anna Fleischle) is quite a spectacle, and arguably overdone – the facade of the hotel dominates the scene, so some of the action between the characters takes place on the sides or front of the stage. Only the interior stages, within the hotel, make it possible to use more stage space. It is, however, extremely detailed – the audience even sees the elevators in the hotel and what floor it is on.
For the purposes of the narrative, the hotel has its own chapel as well as its own prison, with security personnel led by Dogberry (David Fynn) who apparently have powers of arrest. The more you think about it, the more the modernization of the room begins to make less sense than a more “traditional” rendering might have. That said, the proceedings are enjoyable, with some hearty laughs thanks to Benedick (an extremely likeable John Heffernan) in Act II Scene III and Dogberry in Acts III and IV. The use of a hotel band – five musicians led by musical director Dario Rossetti-Bonell – brought a certain cheerfulness to the show, although they were somewhat underused, a transgression somewhat redeemed by a musical finish of the whole company, with choirs and choreography.
Claudio (Eben Figueiredo) for some reason speaks with a multicultural English accent from London. I mention this largely because the accent struck me as more or less strong from scene to scene: does the character tone it down in the presence of certain people – and if so, why? Blocking works reasonably well, with expressions known between characters to recognize that they know if a certain person is within earshot of what they’re talking about. The almost relentless deception gets a little repetitive (is there really no other way to get someone’s attention?), and even the priest, Friar Francis (Al Coppola, Mateo Oxley understudy the evening of the press) organizes special effects.
Shakespeare lovers will know that this is the third great A lot of noise to be staged this year – the others being at the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. In the end, it is a comedy that made the public burst out laughing, and if this production is not perfect, it is nevertheless worth the detour. One last thing: as this review was written during a heat wave, it is (almost) worth pointing out that the air conditioning at the National Theater works wonderfully.
Comment by Chris Omaweng
Since the 1930s, the legendary family-run Hotel Messina has been visited by artists, celebrities and royalty.
When the current owner’s daughter falls in love with a dashing young soldier, the hallways ring with the sound of wedding bells.
However, not all the guests are in the mood for love, and a series of disappointments soon surround not only the young couple, but also the still-single Beatrice and Benedick.
Hugh Oatcake / US Balthazar / George Seacole / Friar Francis – Al Coppola
Ursula / Dance Captain / US Beatrice – Celeste Dodwell
Claudio – Eben Figueiredo
Georgina Seacole / US Ursula / Margaret – Olivia Forrest
Dogwood – David Fynn
Lorenzo / US Dogberry/Yards – Ashley Gillard
Borachio / USA Claudio – Brandon Grace
Yards/US Leonato – Nick Harris
Margaret / American Hero – Phoebe Horn
Don John – David Judge
Balthazar / US Borachio / Don John / Conrade / Hugh Oatcake – Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer
Hero – Ioanna Kimbook
Antonia – Wendy Kweh
Volpe Puzo, Lady Justice / USA Antonia – Marcia Lecky
Conrade / US Don Pedro – Ewan Miller
Valentino / Brother Francis / US Benedick – Mateo Oxley
Beatrice – Katherine Parkinson
Leonato – Rufus Wright
Don Pedro – Ashley Zhangazha
Director – Simon Godwin
Scenographer Anna Fleischle
Costume designer Evie Gurney
Lighting Designer Lucy Carter
Director of the Coral Messam Movement
Composer Michael Bruce
Sound Designer Christopher Shutt
Fight Director Kate Waters
Associate Scenographer Cat Fuller
Music Associate Lindsey Miller
Voice Work Company Jeannette Nelson
Director of Personnel Hannah Joss
Playwright Emily Burns
Musical Director / Guitars Dario Rossetti-Bonell
Kit Shane Forbes
Double bass Nicki Davenport
Wood Jessamy Holder
Trumpet Steve Pretty
A lot of noise for nothing
by William Shakespeare
Duration: 2h30 with an interval of 20 minutes