Much Ado About Nothing review at Leinster Square, London – ‘uneven garden romp’
Touring nine London garden squares across the summer, new company Shakespeare in the Squares’ Much Ado About Nothing finds much of the lightness, but little of the darkness in Shakespeare’s famously ‘broken-backed’ play.
In the summer of 1918 (ignoring the fact that peace wasn’t declared until November), the conquering heroes enter singing British Grenadiers, wearing light suits and boaters. Only Conrade (Lydia May) is left in uniform, and there is something fitting about the character who must remind everyone he is a gentleman being a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps who is reluctant to shed her tunic. Such echoes are scarce however, and the setting primarily allows the text to become a drawing room comedy, its skirmishes of wits turned into Wildean quips.
Gwilym Lloyd tap-dances through his Don Pedro with a Paul Newman smile, and Oliver Tilney gives a huge performance from the off as Claudio, stepping in for Balthazar to give a naughty soldier’s song, but he has little more energy to give once the accusations start flying. Patrick Myles’s Benedick has frustratingly little chemistry with Joannah Tincey, who delivers the quick wit but none of the sadness to be found in Beatrice.
A near uncut text is a highlight for Much Ado aficionados, as is the live music – not to mention the gardening – from the cast. But director Joe Hufton does not unify a cast of different strengths and skills, and does not push beneath the surface of this Shakespearean favourite.