Much Ado About Who?
When David Tennant’s Doctor regenerated, my daughter and I clung to each other sobbing, our heads aching and eyes puffy from tears. After a while I did grow to love Matt Smith, but I don’t think anyone will ever match David Tennant, the Peter Pan of Doctors, with that deep well of melancholy masked by his gregarious adventuring.
I found out that the highly acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ directed by Josie Rourke was available to download from the ‘Digital Theatre’ website, and I thought it would be a good way of introducing my daughter to some Shakespeare, especially as the main characters Benedick and Beatrice were played by David Tennant and Catherine Tate. While you can’t beat the atmosphere and frisson of a live performance, I thought it’d be a better first taste of Shakespeare than making her sit through a painfully dull ‘am dram’ production, like I did with my son – big mistake! Also, watching at home would mean we could pause for updates if she got lost in the plot.
I needn’t have worried. It was totally engaging and hilarious. The production was set in Gibraltor in the early 1980s. There’s an atmosphere of decadence and kicking loose, and while there are lots of military uniforms swanning around, the soldiers are very much off duty and looking to make some mischief at the expense of party animal, Benedick and hostile Beatrice.
The play is full of high-jinx, and the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice crackles with electricity throughout. Their banter was so natural and in character that it was easy to forget you were watching Shakespeare at all. That said, they did overshadow their counterparts, the couple Claudio and Hero. But then, who on earth would be able to match the Tennant/Tate double act? My daughter and I both roared with laughter on numerous occasions, especially the part where Beatrice, swinging overhead from a painter and decorator’s harness, overhears of Benedick’s supposed devotion for her.
The cast was superb, but the costume and set design also contributed hugely to the production’s success. Using the harness was inspired, but there was much use of flamboyant disguises and hiding behind pillars to create the scenarios of plotting, deception, eavesdropping, and misunderstanding that abound in the play. Oh, and did I mention the golf-cart?
Of course it all turns out well in the end. The Tennant/Tate partnership surprised yet again at the finale, when a note of touching sincerity replaces the barbed banter and slapstick of their earlier interactions.
My daughter hasn’t stopped going on about the play it was so good, and for a 10 year old to rave about Shakespeare, well, I think that’s all credit to the power of the cast and production.
So, why not drape yourself in your ‘I’m off to the theatre, darling’ artisan scarf, grab some popcorn and watch it while you can.
Here’s the link to the Digital Theatre website – it’s a total treasure trove!