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Much Ado About Nothing

“A complexly rendered and charismatic performance”

With a tiled dance floor, festoons, crates and palettes strewn about and pillars wrapped with chains of leaves, Jean Chan’s design sets the scene for a celebration. Nic Farman’s lighting drenches the stage in a summer’s haze. The mood is sweet, pastoral. But outside the theatre it’s autumn, a chill is setting in, and Elizabeth Freestone’s production of Much Ado About Nothing is more bracingly troubling than its setting suggests.

Freestone handles the play’s tonal shifts deftly, equally comfortable in the comic antics of the eavesdropping scenes and the ugliness of the disastrous wedding scene. The plot to discredit Hero is this production’s main preoccupation, and Freestone highlights its prickliness and problematics (Leonato’s venomous and quickly forgotten rage makes for particularly queasy watching) without attempting to resolve them, knowing that none of Shakespeare’s comedies is quite straightforward.

There are great supporting performances from Imran Momen as a bashful, slightly gormless Claudio, and Georgia Frost as a melancholic, spiteful Don Jon, whose gender-swap feels like a potentially interesting reading, but one that warrants greater unpacking than it gets here.

But it’s Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s performance as Beatrice that really sticks. She’s sardonic, cutting and, despite her proudness, unreserved in her outward emotion – she’s distraught when dealing with the fallout of Hero’s shaming, and digests her friends’ overheard comments on her character in a confused, hungover haze.

She also delights in her own laughter, and approaches newfound love with more caution than Geoffrey Lumb’s sweetly overcome Benedick. It’s a complexly rendered, wholly charismatic performance.

Elizabeth Freestone: ‘I’m trying to make theatre for the 16-year-old I once was’

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Production Details
Production nameMuch Ado About Nothing
VenueTobacco Factory Theatres
StartsOctober 16, 2019
EndsNovember 9, 2019
Running time3hrs
AuthorWilliam Shakespeare
ComposerChris Warner
DirectorElizabeth Freestone
Movement directorMaria Clarke
Set designerJean Chan
Costume designerJean Chan
Lighting designerNic Farman
Sound designerChris Warner
CastBethan Mary-James, Zachary Powell, Alex Wilson, Alice Barclay, Christopher Bianchi, Dorothea Myer-Bennett, Geoffrey Lumb, Georgia Frost, Hannah Bristow, Imran Momen, Louise Mai Newberry
Production managerNic Prior
ProducerShakespeare At The Tobacco Factory
VerdictLucid reading of Shakespeare’s comedy that brings out its troubling qualities
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Ben Kulvichit

Ben Kulvichit

Ben Kulvichit

Ben Kulvichit

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