Seen: March 4, live broadcast at Haydn English Cinema Vienna
Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley
Directed by Christopher Luscombe
What I am starting to realise after nearly one and a half years of RSC and NTL broadcasts is that the RSC productions really fail to knock me out of my boots. This is especially disappointing because there are so many ways Shakespeare’s work can be interpreted and brought to stage other than just reciting the words. While they are all good and nice, ‘nice’ is probably the worst thing I can say about a theatre production. It’s the equivalent of a band playing their album note for note and then leaving the stage; I could have listened to that – or in case of theatre read the playtext – at home. Actually, I even prefer strongly disliking a production if I can respect what those involved tried to do. If you’ve read my reviews of The Ruling Class and A Midsummer Night’s Dream you might have noticed how much I appreciate when having balls actually pays off.
I held back on writing this thinking that maybe I would see things a bit differently after having finished the online course connected to the production (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/much-ado-about-nothing ) but, alas, no. While that course was so much better than the Hamlet one (I can honestly say I haven’t learned anything new except the professor’s obsession with Freud) and those from the RSC involved all seem like very nice people (in case of people, my above definition of ‘nice’ of course does not apply in the least), the most innovative things about the production remain calling it Love’s Labour Won, following the theory this is actually the one Shakespaeare play thought to have been lost and making it a companion production to Love’s Labour’s Lost (see iwishyoumuchmirth’s review https://butmadnorth.com/2015/02/12/loves-labours-lost/) and moving it from Messina to England after WWI.
The setting was a bit unusual in the beginning, but it made sense and the Christmas tree was a great prop, especially for Edward Bennett’s Benedick. Both Bennett and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) were very good, even if Terry seemed to have momentarily forgotten she was wearing a microphone, so she was painfully shrill at the very beginning. Bennett also proved apt at adapting to unforeseen situations like a rather vocal patron or his own corpsing.
Setting the play this close to the 20s allowed for some entertaining musical numbers as well as great costumes. While I’m generally not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s comedies and there are of course a lot of issues viewing them as a woman born in the 1970s instead of 1600s, Much Ado is actually the one I do like because I enjoy the quickfire bantering between the two perceived as the main characters even though in fact they hardly have any time together on stage.
I usually find more humour in the tragedies, so I might not be the best person judging this production. I can for example never relate to the audience laughing at ‘Kill Claudio’. The play is however one my sister’s favourites, so maybe she wants to add her view.
To sum it up: it was an entertaining time in the cinema, but I wouldn’t want to watch this again.