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Much Ado About Nothing

Mel Giedroyc impresses in the Rose Theatre's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. It's entertaining and fun, with not a soggy bottom in sight.

The Rose Theatre in Kingston has put on some big Shakespeare productions in the past including Judi Dench in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lenny Henry in Othello, so it only felt right that in their 10th Anniversary year they should return with another, Much Ado About Nothing with Mel Giedroyc… yes, the one from Bake Off.

Simon Dormandy’s busy production throws us straight into a world of luxury spas, glitzy hotels and the Mafia. The action takes place at the luxury Hotel Messina in Sicily, owned and run by a Mafia family who panic when local mob boss Don Pedro (Peter Guinness) and his men arrive for some rest and relaxation following a turf war in which he has defeated and “turned” his brother Don John (Peter Bray).

Don Pedro and his men enter in dark suits and shades, guns at the ready and swarm on to the stage. The brave reimagining was handled smartly as it ramps up the play’s often neglected background tension. Naomi Dawson’s set was impressively luxuriant with white marble floors and lavish furniture. Partnered with Paul Pyant’s fantastic lighting design, it created an extremely believable Sicilian hotel getaway, you felt warm just looking at it.

This might be one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies but it’s set in a grim masculine world that’s underlined by mutual distrust and paranoia among people who would call each other friends. Beatrice (Mel Giedroyc) and Benedick’s (John Hopkins) will they/won’t they relationship is immature and yet strangely grown up, in terms of how old they are and their mutual knowledge of which buttons to press. Giedroyc, who doesn’t have a wealth of stage experience, started off slightly wobbly… whether or not that was the heels she was wearing  or her characterisation was hard to tell.

Her comic asides were like her looks to the camera on The Great British Bake Off, and as the laughs flooded in, she gradually settled into the tempo of the production. Hopkins’ Benedick however somewhat stole her thunder, bringing a unique energy to the stage and a lively sense of comic timing. We see him develop from ill-mannered boy to a sensitive man with absolute honesty and equal humour.

With so much physical, sometimes slapstick, comedy layered on to the Beatrice/Benedick’s deception, Dogberry’s (Stewart Wright) security scenes played second fiddle. Regarded as some of the funniest parts of the play they were overshadowed by the pure silliness of the earlier scenes, despite some enthusiastic work from Wright.

But overall it was an enjoyable production, with a pleasing mixture of sweet and savoury scenes – and not a soggy bottom in sight.

Review by Josh Clarke


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