British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
Much Ado About Nothing (2007): Liverpool Playhouse
PrMuch Ado About Nothing (2007)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Stephen Billington (Claudio); Peter Bygott (Leonato); Ruth Everett (Hero); Simon Merrells (Benedick); Howard Saddler (Don Pedro); Faz Singhateh (Don John); Sally Ann Triplett (Beatrice).
This production ran from 17 April - 5 May 2007.
"There's potential in the idea behind this Liverpool Playhouse production, which relocates Shakespeare's battle of wits and hearts to England in the aftermath of the Second World War. But having come up with the concept, the director Phil Willmott has done disappointingly little with it. The period detail, rather than illuminating the play from a fresh perspective, feels more like gimmickry and window-dressing. Beatrice becomes a hearty land girl, Benedick a returning airman, Leonato and diplomat and Dogberry a camp vicar and Scout master, whos rosy-cheeked young charges scamper all over Christopher Woods's rather unwieldy ivy-covered country house set. There is a shooting party with a real dog; there is a VE celebration with glittering evening dresses, champagne and yards of Union Jack bunting. But while all of that may hold a nostalgic charm, there's no exploration here of the social changes ushered in by the war - most notably, its impact on gender and class divisions....The acting seems forced, the jokes laboured....Among the rest of a largely unremarkable company, Faz Singhateh's Don John is a crude pantomime villain. ~ Sam Marlowe, "Much Ado About Nothing", Times, 19 April 2007
"Phil Willmott states in his director's notes that Much Ado About Nothing 'still feels as fresh as paint'. The obvious response is that it depends when it was last painted. Willmott opts for a slightly chipped, make-do-and-mend quality by setting the action in an English country house at the end of the second world war. Shakespeare's comedy is all about what happens when the outbreak of peace leaves soldiers with their 'war thoughts vacant', so it seems a felicitous idea to conceive Beatrice as a strapping land girl and Benedick as an officer-class clown, while the suggestion that Leonato is a diplomat recalled from Italy makes sense of the potentially troublesome references to Messina. Willmott's period fun extends to casting Dogberry as a boy scout leader, and we even see Hero's stocking seams being applied in gravy browning. The trouble is that this is all done with such boundless energy that it feels like being pounced on by a Labrador - a bit sloppy and rather too eager to please. To emphasise the point, he even includes a large dog for Sally Ann Triplett's Beatrice to cuddle at contemplative moments." ~ Alfred Hickling, Guardian, 19 April 2007
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