Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2024
Photo: Marc Brenner
  • Theatre, Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank
  • Recommended


Much Ado About Nothing

4 out of 5 stars

Sean Holmes’s orange-drenched take on Shakespeare’s classic comedy is a cartoonish joy


Time Out says

Shakespeare’s Globe launches its summer season with this sparkling staging of one of the bard’s best comedies. It’s a sun-drenched spectacle that makes full use of the theatre’s crowd-pleasing openness and opportunity for audience interaction.

Of course, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ as a play has one of Shakespeare’s wildest tonal whiplashes. It begins as a frothy romcom, following Don Pedro and his soldiers as they shack up with Leonatio in his idyllic home in Messina and of course the lightning-sharp banter between Benedick and Leonato’s niece, Beatrice. But in the secodn half it’s all change with false allegations of infidelity aimed at Leonato’s daughter, Hero, her faked death and sworn revenge. 

The cleverness of Globe associate artistic director Sean Holmes’s production is to steer even harder into the comedy in the first half, as paradoxical as that seems. Here, Hero’s paramour Claudio isn’t (as he can be) a blandly second-string romantic lead; in Adam Wadsworth’s delightfully puppyish performance, he’s a manchild full of ridiculous bluster. He and the rest of Don Pedro’s pals are like lads on a night out: full of idiotic big talk. It’s a deliciously merciless portrayal. The scene where they try to convince Benedick that Beatrice loves him, plays out as if they’ve never actually met a woman.

The consequence of these clownish levels of testosterone is to sharpen how inadequate these smugly self-assured men are when they’re duped by Don Pedro’s brother into believing that Hero has cheated on Claudio. The vivid abundance of oranges that are present everywhere on Grace Smart’s brightly coloured set – crated, chomped into and casually discarded – is reflected in Hero’s wedding dress. Without the production losing pace, this citrus spray sours into a reminder that men set the rules. The only place where this fumbles is in the immediate aftermath of Hero’s abandonment. The shift from mugging to sincerity takes a little too long.

Amalia Vitale is an effervescent Beatrice, with almost too much life to be contained by circumstances as she lampoons people left, right and centre. She spars with Ekow Quartey’s Benedick – who is charmingly awkward and brilliantly far from suave here – with an almost gleeful degree of eye-rolling. The pair play off the audience as effectively as they make us complicit in their ‘doth protest too much’ grandstanding. If the sense of ex-lovers meeting after the years have made them wary of their hearts is lost here, it’s replaced with rafter-reaching energy and laugh-out-loud line deliveries.        

The rest of the talented cast also make the play feel like much more of an ensemble effort than can sometimes be the case. Jonnie Broadbent is predictably rib-ticklingly funny as the querulously officious Dogberry, while, under Holmes's shrewd direction,  some of the more hand-wavey moments in the script get some shading in. Ryan Donaldson gives Don Pedro’s out-of-nowhere marriage proposal to Beatrice proper weight. Meanwhile, as Leonato, John Lightbody’s annoyance when he learns Claudio, not the prince, wants to marry Hero, brings a new dimension to the social hierarchy lurking behind the smiles.     


Shakespeare's Globe
New Globe Walk
Tube: Blackfriars/Mansion House/London Bridge
£5-£65. Runs 2hr 45min

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