Much Ado About Nothing at Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Much Ado About Nothing at Royal Shakespeare Theatre


Posted 2022-02-22 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Mon 21 Feb 2022 - Sat 12 Mar 2022

Shakespeare's witty battle of the sexes returns to the RSC in Stratford upon Avon but this time in a futuristic imagined world from one of the country's most exciting new directors.

Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until March 12 is under the stewardship of director Roy Alexander Weise.

He's a rising star in the UK theatre world and since receiving the prestigious JMK award in 2016 has brought a fresh take to the stage through plays including The Mountaintop and Nine Night for the National Theatre.

In this, his Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) debut, Alexander Weise has created a futuristic world that visually at first glance has the 'Afrofuturism' look and feel seen in movies like Marvel's Black Panther. Soldiers Don Pedra, Benedick and Claudio abseil down from the roof like superheroes in their dramatic entrance that brings a frisson of excitement among the audience.

But the memorable set design and costumes are far more than just superheroes. It's all a clever fusion of African and Shakespearean European cultures with an extra dose of zany futuristic effects, glowing neon and unusual symbols.

Gold features strongly as a nod to it being an African symbol of power and authority historically, but there are also subtle culturally relevant touches like lead Benedick wearing one black glove or a scene in a barbershop and the soul-influenced RnB music.

The incredibly imaginative clothes have been designed by London costume designer Melissa Simon-Hartman, who was worked on outfits for Beyonce and Doja Cat. She has infused elements of corsets, kirtles and billowing dresses from the Elizabethan era of Shakespeare's time with styles from the West Indies, West Africa and more, which make you excited to see what will come next.

Men mix arm cuffs with yoga pants and big boots while the women have a revolving series of outfit changes from romantic pastel pinks to shimmering metallic shades, all with a hint of African traditions in the hairstyles and accessories.

The comedy follows two couples and their romances after a group of soldiers return from war. One a case of love at first sight for Claudio and Hero that is veered off course by the meddling villain of the piece, Don John.

The other coupling - of Beatrice and Benedick - is one that has sparked endless rom-com books and movies ever since. This older couple and more feistier pair are two of Shakespeare's prime characters.

They are the stuff that all rom-coms are made of - boy meets girl, irritate each other and constantly bicker despite subconsciously falling in love.

Akiya Henry as Beatrice is a force of nature on stage. She's nailed this character's vibrancy and independent spirit while being likeable and realistic.

Newcomer Luke Wilson stepped in at the last minute as Benedick full time when Michael Balogun pulled out suddenly due to 'unforeseen circumstances' but is an impressive understudy. He has a charisma and presence on stage plus a wonderful chemistry with Henry.

You can't help but look forward to their encounters as their romance develops. They make easy work of some of Shakespeare's wittiest dialogue. Although the main comedy comes from Karen Henthorn as the ridiculous Constable Dogberry, who unwittingly unearths the plots and manipulations of dastardly Don John.

Alexander Weise puts song and dance at the heart of the production, which makes it feel fresh and youthful. It also feels very up to date with its gender fluid approach with Ann Ogbomo fitting in well as Don Pedra, traditionally a male role.

It's a constant visual sensation that adds something new to an age-old play. Most of all, it's very, very memorable.

Much Ado is clearly another success for Alexander Weise as he stamps his mark on creating relevant and exciting diverse theatre. It's a marvel to enjoy that may be set in the future but makes Shakespeare feel like it's finally immersed in the 21st Century.
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#theatre -reviews
!date 21/02/2022 -- 12/03/2022
70619 - 2023-01-26 01:48:11


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