'Much Ado About Nothing' review – this sunshine-drenched comedy is a joyful start to the Globe season

Read our review of Shakespeare's romcom Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Sean Holmes, now in performances at Shakespeare's Globe to 24 August.

Aliya Al-Hassan
Aliya Al-Hassan

The UK weather may refuse to play ball, but if you head to Shakespeare’s Globe, you’ll get a dose of pure sunshine. That’s because Associate Artistic Director Sean Holmes’s hilarious new production of Much Ado About Nothing places the action in the heart of a stiflingly hot summer in Renaissance Italy – plus it’s a glorious watch.

This is a clever choice of staging to appeal to a younger audience, as it’s easy to view the story almost as a 16th-century version of Love Island: the entanglement and “merry war” of two sets of young lovers, drenched in sun, rumour and intense passions. Holmes ramps up the comedy to 11, then places real darkness with the story of Hero and her rejection at the altar. The balance is very effective, as this scene feels starkly shocking and sombre after the heightened merriment.

Ekow Quartey and Amalia Vitale have a wonderfully spiky chemistry as Benedick and Beatrice, both delivering easy wit and lighting-fast ripostes. They make a brilliant team. Vitale shows vivid incisiveness and whip-smart intelligence, wringing out every bit of impish energy of the character, although occasionally ramps up the sarcasm a little too far.

Quartey is the standout: wonderfully likeable and demonstrating almost perfect comic timing. He really excels in the physical comedy too, with his attempts to eavesdrop on the friends, who are setting him up with Beatrice, deliciously slapstick. By contrast his distress is clear when his friend Claudio denounces Hero at the altar, which brings depth to the play’s final twists and turns.

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With the spotlight firmly on Beatrice and Benedick, it can be hard to make the roles of Claudio and Hero shine. However, newcomer Lydia Fleming and Adam Wadsworth bring their own romantic tension to the production. Fleming is a gentle and soft Hero, making her bewilderment at the chaos of her wedding even more striking. Wadsworth brings moody teenage energy to Claudio, both petulant and naïve.

Jonnie Broadbent is very funny as Dogberry, skipping through scenes that can drag with farcical delight. Ryan Donaldson’s Don Pedro is both commanding and jovial, Robert Mountford suitably sombre as Don John, and Emma Ernest has real stage presence as Margaret. The ensemble does a sterling supporting job.

Designer Grace Smart has created a bucolic orangery on stage, with panels of trees and baskets brimming with fruit, evoking the natural generosity of the season; you can almost smell the citrus. Her use of shades of orange and pops of cobalt blue are really striking.

Grant Olding’s musical composition complements the balmy setting. He uses dreamy Sicilian-inspired folk songs filled with shimmering mandolin, clarinet and accordion.

A memorable production: whether a newbie or a veteran of the Bard, this a riotous and truly joyful start to the new Globe season.

Much Ado About Nothing is at Shakespeare's Globe to 24 August. Book Much Ado About Nothing tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Much Ado About Nothing (Photo by Marc Brenner)

Originally published on

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