'Born in a merry hour,' is how Shakespeare's lively heroine Beatrice is described; it's a term one could just as easily apply to the whole play which revels in verbal ingenuity and witty wordplay, brilliantly suited to the appreciate audience at the Globe.
Following last year's success with several all-female ensembles, this production again uses the same formula to terrific effect, the casting of Josie Lawrence as Benedick is a real coup, her natural comic ability fitting the role seamlessly. As her fiery sparring partner Beatrice is Yolanda Vazquez who, while not possessing the same command of nuance that makes Lawrence's such a richly textured performance, is still pretty good in what is undeniably a gem of a part.
Interestingly, the idea of women assuming male roles is not the modern innovation one would think; apparently a group of actresses undertook a season of plays in the 1670's, a brave act in an era when a company bore the name The King's Men for good reason, women precluded from the stage. On the current evidence, in terms of viability it's clearly a case of picking the right actors for this is a joy from start to finish, the majority so persuasive you simply forget about the novelty value and enjoy the perennial appeal of a great play. Amongst a wealth of talent, Rachel Sanders and Belinda Davison are outstanding as the villainous Don John and his duped brother Don Pedro, whilst Sarah Woodward's delightfully dim Constable Dogberry effortlessly steals every scene in which she appears.
Much Ado is one of the most uplifting of all the comedies but it has slightly darker hues too- as evinced by the false accusations levelled at the pure Hero- and this is perfectly captured in what is one of the best productions the Globe has yet presented. Perfect fare for a summer evening.
What other critics had to say.....
NICOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "A Howling disappointment." ELISABETH MAHONEY for THE GUARDIAN says, "A production that squeezes every bit of fun out of women playing parts written for men." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Disappointing....This most sparkling of comedies has become a clapped-out vehicle of political correctness...." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "The revival’s main weakness is that it sometimes strains too hard and crudely to be funny." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Benedick here is played by Josie Lawrence. She's not the best actor onstage, and yet she's winning:....By the time she says "man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion", she/he has our hearts."